Showing posts with label April 15 1947. Show all posts
Showing posts with label April 15 1947. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bearing witness to Jackie Robinson Day in 1997

On April 15, 1997, the New York Mets hosted Jackie Robinson Night at Shea Stadium, where Major League Baseball forever retired Jackie Robinson's jersey number 42. Exactly fifty years prior, Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves in 1947, serving to shatter the line of segregation in the sport.

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the game, as the Mets distributed tickets to local high schools to boost attendance. I remember an announcement being made that tickets were available and as soon as the bell rang for the next period, I went to the office to claim one. Excited to have my ticket in hand, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to bear witness to this historic event.

Media Gathering Around The Field at Batting Practice for Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte
Entering Shea Stadium for the game, there was a tremendous amount of security as President Clinton was in attendance. Seemingly at every turn in the stadium there was a Secret Service agent, constantly on the lookout for any potential sign of danger. On the field during batting practice, hordes of media gathered by the newly unveiled logo commemorating the event.


Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 Shea Stadium / N. Diunte
During the fifth inning of the contest, Major League Baseball stopped the game for an unprecedented on-field ceremony that included a hobbled President Bill Clinton who was recovering from knee surgery, Rachel Robinson, commissioner Bud Selig, and a few of Robinson's former Brooklyn Dodger teammates. The President explained the significance of Robinson's legacy and why it was important that his number 42 was going to be permanently retired across Major League Baseball.

President Bill Clinton speaking during Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte

Taking in the game from the upper deck with hordes of other New York City high school students, there was a bond that evening that transcended team affiliations. We knew we were all spectators to a historical baseball event, one worthy of the President's time and attention. Twenty years later, the annual on-going tributes to Robinson and the doors that he opened, serve to remind us just how powerful his impact was on  the game.

Special Commemorative Program From Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ralph Branca reflects on Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947 debut

Brooklyn Dodger legend Ralph Branca was in New York City this week for the Sports Angels spring fundraiser, where he is Vice-Chairman of the organization that serves to support local youth sports initiatives. With Thursday's event occurring 63 years to the date of Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947 major league debut, Branca, who won 21 games for the Dodgers in 1947, gave his recollections of being present for the historical breakthrough.

Ralph Branca with Jackie Robinson (L) and Pee Wee Reese (R).
Courtesy of Walteromalley.com
"That day, if you read the papers, basically, they didn't mention that he was breaking the color barrier," Branca said. "The papers said, Robinson went 0-3, walked, scored a run, and bunted successfully. It never mentioned that it was a great event in the history of the world. I say the world because he helped baseball number one, but also as baseball integrated, the country took a different view of blacks. It took the government seven years to pass a civil rights law, which was to the benefit of everyone, lessening our countries' prejudice. That event was great."

Branca cited the uncertainty surrounding debut as a reason for the media hesitating to label Robinson's debut as groundbreaking. The event was uncharted waters the press was still figuring out how to navigate.

"It was a strange new territory," he said. "People didn't know how to react or behave and the papers themselves didn't note it as a historic event, just as a write up of the game period."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ralph Branca Reflects On Jackie Robinson's Debut

I recently sat down with Ralph Branca to get his reflections on April 15, 1947, the day that Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branca was with Jackie that day, and was a key member of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers winning 21 games en route to a World Series appearance. Branca referred to it as, "not only a great moment for baseball, but a great moment for the rest of the world." To hear the rest of the interview, click the play button below.


Ralph Branca with Jackie Robinson (L) and Pee Wee Reese (R).
Courtesy of Walteromalley.com