Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Former Brooklyn Dodger Ray Hathaway remembers teammate Jackie Robinson

With Major League Baseball honoring Jackie Robinson today, 92-year-old former Brooklyn Dodger, Ray Hathaway looks back fondly on the time he spent with Robinson during his groundbreaking 1946 season in Montreal. Hathaway had appeared in four games in 1945 with Brooklyn after returning from World War II, and was trying to work his arm back into shape with Montreal.

Robinson impressed him from day one.

"After I saw him play the first game, I knew [he was going to be a star]," Hathaway said. "He fielded well, ran well and hit well. If you were scouting him, and [sitting] amongst the scouts, the question was 'What can't he do?' And if you saw him play, you would ask yourself the same question."

Hathaway thought Robinson wouldn't have to wait until 1947 to make his debut with the Dodgers.

"I thought he was ready," he said. "I thought he would be up [in Brooklyn] before the season was over."

Unfortunately, Hathaway didn't foresee a return to the major leagues. Plagued by a sore arm, he knew his window of opportunity was closing.

"I had already been there and I had arm trouble," he said. "I saw the writing on the wall."

He was about to embark on a 25 year long managing career the next season. At the end of spring training in 1947, he approached Branch Rickey about becoming a manager.

"We went to a game in Cuba," he said, "Mr. Rickey was there. I asked to speak to him. About the fifth inning, he asked, 'What's on your mind?' I told him I would like to manage. He [Rickey] asked, 'How do I know you can manage?' I said, 'You don't and neither do I. All I can promise is that we'll work.'" Rickey's response was one that left Hathaway with little time to mutter his decision, "If you are going to manage a team for me, be on my plane. I'm leaving in the morning for Miami."

Hathaway spent his early seasons as a player/manager for the minor league affiliates of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"It was challenging [as a player/manager]," he said. "In spite of pitching, you always had to be ahead of the other manager by two innings."

After 1952, Hathaway took himself out of the rotation to focus primarily on running the ballclub.

"The only time I pitched after that [1952]," he said, "was if the pitching staff was getting their butt beat. I tried to save them."

Despite his previous arm troubles, Hathaway had something of a rubber arm, filling in from time to time until 1965 at the age of 48. He managed many legends including, Hall of Famers Dick Williams, Willie Stargell, and Bill Sharman. He has the second highest win total as manger of the Asheville Tourists minor league club, with his record broken only last season. He retired from baseball after managing the Wilson Pennants of the Carolina League in 1973. 


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