TSN Archives: Jackie Robinson makes his debut with the Dodgers (April 23, 1947, issue)

Editor’s note: This story — under the headline, “Debut ‘Just Another Game’ to Jackie” — first appeared in The Sporting News dated April 23, 1947, after Jackie Robinson’s major league debut April 15 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The writer, Ward Morehouse, was a renowned columnist and theater critic, a celebrity in his own right, known particularly for his “Broadway After Dark” columns in the New York Sun. A note accompanying this story read, in part, “Morehouse, a close follower of baseball for years, was asked to get Jackie Robinson’s reactions after his first major league game.” (Warning: Outdated references to race my be offensive to some.)

By WARD MOREHOUSE

NEW YORK, NY — “I’m really a home boy,” said Jackie Robinson as I called upon him two hours after he had finIshed the first major league game of his life. “Give me five years of this and that will be enough . If I can make enough money to build my own little place and give my boy a good education, everything will be all right. I realize I have been given a great opportunity, and I believe I can make it.”

The strapping young Negro star, a magnificent specimen of athletic build and elasticity, was sitting on the edge of the bed, playing with the toys of unprotesting Jackie, Jr., aged 5 months, when I entered Room 1169 of Manhattan’s Hotel McAlpin — small , square, cramped quarters for a family of three. The Robinsons had run head-on into the housing shortage the instant they arrived in the great city. Mrs. Robinson was out for a bite of dinner; the Dodgers’ new first baseman was serving as his own sitter and baby-minder, as if an old hand at the assignment,

Well, how was it out there in the bedlam of Ebbets Field? How was it in the first game as the first member of his race to be recognized in the big leagues?

“Just Another Game”

Jackie smiled, tickled his baby’s toes, and then said quietly:

“It was all right. I did all my thinking last night. Before I went to bed I thanked God for all that’s happened, and for the food fortune that’s come my way. I belong to the Methodist Church In Pasadena and I used to be a Sunday School teacher at UCLA; they gave me the bad little boys, and I liked it. I was determined not to give too much thought to it being my first game and that’s the way I did it. pressure. It was just another ball game and that’s the way they’re all going to be. If I make good — well, that will be perfectly wonderful. of looking at it.

“I was comfortable on that field in my first game. The Brooklyn players have been swell and they were encouraging all the way. The Brooklyn crowd was certainly on my side, but I don’t know how it will be in other parks. size of the crowd didn’t faze me and it never will.

“Now I realize that to stay in the National League, I’ll have to hit. I hit for .349 for Montreal last year and I was pretty fast, but I already realize there’s a difference. The big league pitchers are smarter. realize that, although I haven’t seen but a few of them. Take that fellow (Johnny) Sain of the Boston Braves. He works on you. He has good control. I’m aware that I have to make it this year — This is my great chance. Will I hit? I hope I’ll hit. I believe I’ll hit, I’m sure I’ll hit.”

Robinson, a sinewy young giant, 28 years old and a fraction of an inch under six feet, lifted his gurgling infant from the bed into the crib beside the closed window (crib courtesy of the McAlpin) and stood beside the crib, with an eye on Jackie, Jr., as he continued: “I’m sticking to my style of playing ball. I’m supposed to be fast, but maybe I didn’t look so fast on that double play today. home run hitter and never was. I like to meet the ball and hope a lot of them fall safe. In the International League last year a lot of them did. I got quite a few doubles but only three home runs. That’s somebody else’s department I stole 40 bases and I had the authority to go whenever I thought I had the jump, but I suppose I’ll now be leaving my base running to club orders here on the Dodgers for a while.

“I had a wonderful year in Montreal. The people were fine to me, and Rachel and I (Rachel Isum, who became Mrs. Robinson in February of 1946), had a nice apartment about five miles from the ball park. exciting living in New York City.The first thing We’ve got to do is to find an apartment.Nearly anything will do.The Brooklyn club is working on that.”

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Ga., but before he was a year old his family moved to Pasadena, and he lived there until his marriage, when he and his bride moved into Los Angeles. He was an all-round star at UCLA, served three years in the Army, played with those dauntless Negro professionals, the Kansas City Monarchs, and then went to Montreal. Now, following his spectacular year in the International League (he led the loop in hitting, was second in base stealing), he is the first baseman for the Durocher-less Dodgers.

“I know,” he said slowly, still keeping an eye on the future star who was making 5-month-old sounds in the crib, “that a lot of players, particularly the southern boys, won’t be able to change their feelings overnight on the matter of playing ball with a Negro.

“The Brooklyn team has been wonderful and I guess now it’s all up to me. I regret very much that Leo Durocher isn’t with us. (Durocher was suspended for the 1947 season.) I feel that if he were, we could win the pennant, because we have a good club. First base is new for me, but I’ll learn it. I’ll learn to anticipate plays as I did at second. I bunted a lot last season and ran out a lot of hits and I’m sure I can do it again.”

“Tomorrow Another Day”

Jackie Robinson, athlete, student and wartime lieutenant, intends playing today’s game today and he’s hoping to be a big league star, but partial or complete failure would not crush him.

“I love baseball,” he said, “but I can’t say I liked it at school better than football or track. I try to put my heart into the game I’m playing. As I said, five years of this will be fine. I hope to make a way for little Jackie. We’d like to try to begin building a home on the outskirts of Los Angeles next year. And it’s not too important to me.My ambition, eventually, is to get a boys’ club and to try to hold down juvenile delinquency.

“When I was in college I used to think that the time would come when Negroes would be in major league ball as they are in other sports, but I didn’t think it would be in my time and I never dreamed that I would be the first.

“I know that I have a certain responsibility to my race, but I’ve got to try not to feel that way about it because it would be too much of a strain. I’ll do my best and keep Joe Louis as my model Joe’s my favorite person. He’s been a good friend. I’ve played golf with him and we’ve talked a bit. He has kept telling me to hang in there and work and he thinks I’ll make it. know, is crazy about baseball and in softball he plays a good game at first base.”

Jackie Robinson, a black Apollo of a man, rose, reached into the crib, swung Jackie, Jr., back to the bed, and went into a practiced gurgling routine as the pretty Mrs. Robinson, who also went to UCLA, returned to take over the duties.

“Just say,” said the Georgia-born Negro, as I was taking my leave, “that I know that this year is the test and that I also know that I’ve got to hit. right, and I’m not going to worry at any time.”

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