4/15/1947, or “Why are they all wearing #42?”

Of all the words of baseball history I’ve come across, I think the most beautiful are these attributed to then-NL President Ford Frick, responding to rumors of a boycott against Jackie Robinson:

I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don’t care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another.

The National League will go down the line with Robinson whatever the consequences. You will find if you go through with your intention that you have been guilty of complete madness.

In 1883, Cap Anson and other stars of the day had threatened to take their ball and go home rather than take the field with a black player. Sixty-three years later, Frick — the sixth NL president in the segregated era — and other fair-minded people told Anson’s spiritual heirs, Who needs you? As usually happens in such cases, the bullies backed down.

As a sidebar, if there’s any doubt that Jackie was one of the most valuable players in baseball history, here’s the all-time top 20 in Wins Above Replacement for ages 28-37:

Rk Player bWAR G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Babe Ruth 104.6 1418 6346 4989 1355 1771 282 66 455 1377 1255 728 23 72 77 .355 .487 .712 1.198
2 Barry Bonds 90.6 1429 6162 4751 1158 1478 294 37 437 1096 1311 739 54 242 68 .311 .461 .664 1.126
3 Honus Wagner 88.9 1396 5944 5207 983 1788 347 139 54 900 550 363 66 444 .343 .413 .495 .907
4 Willie Mays 88.2 1532 6403 5631 1111 1701 285 55 371 1049 697 770 21 147 44 .302 .378 .570 .948
5 Hank Aaron 73.7 1521 6497 5730 1072 1766 298 28 386 1097 701 717 12 177 45 .308 .382 .572 .954
6 Ty Cobb 72.1 1365 6091 5253 1066 1937 346 131 46 833 656 262 32 359 124 .369 .442 .511 .953
7 Mike Schmidt 69.6 1475 6224 5155 963 1426 249 32 361 1031 959 1084 35 82 48 .277 .389 .547 .936
8 Lou Gehrig 68.4 1243 5637 4674 1114 1582 286 74 306 1184 927 376 27 60 56 .338 .451 .628 1.078
9 Stan Musial 68.3 1498 6591 5637 1039 1891 384 72 288 1051 889 352 26 31 28 .335 .426 .582 1.009
10 Tris Speaker 68.3 1371 5967 5007 983 1801 434 100 66 798 763 131 42 149 65 .360 .448 .526 .974
11 Joe Morgan 66.4 1385 5913 4777 929 1341 253 33 171 692 1040 494 22 444 95 .281 .407 .455 .862
12 Nap Lajoie 64.6 1270 5321 4802 681 1650 350 68 25 737 324 182 56 190 5 .344 .392 .460 .852
13 Rogers Hornsby 64.3 1084 4586 3834 838 1412 290 55 183 836 605 300 15 31 15 .368 .456 .616 1.072
14 Roberto Clemente 63.6 1372 5837 5355 847 1770 249 99 165 811 412 771 20 51 16 .331 .378 .506 .884
15 Jackie Robinson 63.2 1382 5804 4877 947 1518 273 54 137 734 740 291 72 197 30 .311 .409 .474 .883
16 Ted Williams 61.4 1079 4718 3675 850 1264 253 27 253 914 1026 309 11 11 4 .344 .488 .634 1.122
17 Charlie Gehringer 59.2 1419 6425 5534 1143 1825 386 64 140 986 798 209 25 92 37 .330 .417 .499 .915
18 Wade Boggs 57.9 1415 6392 5401 920 1770 358 38 79 613 901 436 18 10 24 .328 .421 .452 .873
19 Eddie Collins 57.0 1445 6421 5265 919 1731 208 95 27 662 816 189 27 336 127 .329 .421 .420 .841
20 Rickey Henderson 54.2 1253 5508 4457 967 1268 224 20 141 470 967 629 48 526 114 .284 .415 .439 .854
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/15/2012.

What might Jackie’s career have looked like if MLB had allowed him in before age 28? Well, for the other 19 players on the list above, the median WAR through age 27 was a cool 50. And 16 of those 19 are among the top 20 in career WAR.

It seems fitting that the standings of April 15, 2012 show the Dodgers alone at the top, and that their best player (and probably the most valuable in the game today) is an African-American from Oklahoma, a former slave territory.

It’s a great day for a ballgame, folks. Let’s all play.

(Tip of the ol’ Brooklyn Bridegrooms cap to Doug Glanville, Buster Olney, Joe Posnanski, Timothy Rapp, John Thorn, and Graham Womack.)

Doug Glanville,

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Hub Kid
Hub Kid
8 years ago

Great quote, stats and story, John. Huzzah for baseball and fair play!

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago

John A, you would be surprised at the number of people who would agree with Frick. They are all over this country, and at least when it comes to professional sports, come from all over the socio-economic spectrum. It’s definitely not my ideology, but labor, in any form, organized or not, skilled or not, public service or private sector, sports star or ditch-digger, is a major whipping boy.

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

Wait…do you mean they’d agree with Anson? I’m confused by what you’re trying to say.

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago
Reply to  vivaeljason

What I said was dumb. I’ve mentioned before I’m not a math guy. For some reason I was thinking of Frick in 1963 (I was careless in reading) when there were some early labor issues, and not Frick 63 years after Cap Anson, when he took the absolute correct stand. Sorry

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

I’m definitely a union man. I just was very confused reading your post, Mike. No worries. 🙂

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago
Reply to  vivaeljason

Thanks. Kind of an interesting round trip with the Dodgers regarding labor issues. In 1966, Koufax and Drysdale did a joint holdout-and hired agents, O’Malley just brushed them off. They later signed, without agents, for a lot less than they wanted. In 1966, reserve clause, one year contracts, and being banished to the minors pretty much meant you were bound for life.

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago

I misread the syntax of the quote. I thought he was discussing an overall work stoppage for labor reasons and not for racial reasons. Frick was absolutely right. Btw the spiritual heirs of Anson are still out there. Read comments to any political article and you would be amazed at how quickly some people veer from policy criticism to ugly stuff.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

JA, what you’ve added to the post greatly clarifies the context. I read the original and didn’t quite get it the era it referred to until I read on.

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago

Great stuff John. Great day for baseball and a great day for America.

And while I’m sure the readers of this blog are well aware of how great Robinson was, the list you posted should dispel the notion that he was elected to the HOF “just” because he broke the color barrier. In spite of playing in the most difficult situation imaginable his greatness as a ballplayer still shone thru.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago

It is interesting in a country (Canada), where I live, without all of the race baggage of our great Southern neighbour, to see the Toronto players and coaches sporting the number 42 on their backs. My take on Jackie Robinson Day in MLB, from a Canadian perspective, is that Branch Rickey signed him out of the Negro American League and sent Jackie to play for the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers International League affiliate, in 1946. He called him up to the majors in 1947 and the rest is history. Mr. Rickey “integrated” Jackie Robinson, in a minor-league sense, in… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

Of interest on that Montreal team was one of Robinson’s teammates: a then 29 year old Al Campanis, later a long time Dodger General Manager who was fired for racially insensitive remarks. I don’t think that at heart Campanis was a virulent racist but I do think that growing up when he did may have left him with some ingrained stereotypes that he had never fully come to terms with.

Long before MLB was integrated, Satchel Paige pitched one summer for an mostly white semi-pro team in Bismark, North Dakota.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

Wow, Hartvig, I had forgotten about Mr. Campanis’s inappropriate remarks several years ago. Talk about coming full circle ……

Very nice connection!

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

“Negro” and I think some integrated teams regularly played in a national semi-pro tournament in Denver iirc.

Robinson was a great athlete, baseball was probably his 4th best sport as an amateur, but offered the best opportunity for professional income.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

My point, JA, was that it was fortuitous that the Dodgers’ farm team in 1946 was in the International League and not a league where the home parks had a lower latitude. Myabe that factored into Rickey’s decision to sign Robinson and have him spend a year in the minors. I didn’t realize, being a foreigner :-), that Baltimore, Maryland, was/is a Confederate city. Nice research to find the link documenting the Baltimore fans’ response. I have no evidence to support the belief that Jackie Robinson got a fair shake from crowds in Toronto or Montreal. However …. I am… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Not at all, JA. Even with my country of origin, I knew Maryland was part of the North.

Only Virginia had split allegiences. (Caveliers and Mountaineers, as I remember to my chagrin from last year)

But I honestly thought that, so long after the Civil War, Baltimore would have been more enlightened in 1946, when Jackie came in with the visiting team.

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Maryland likely stayed with the Union because of all the troops around Washington. MLB, at least, was primarily a northern/midwestern organization. With Washington and St Louis being the farthest south and the only cities where slavery had been legal 100 years before. The IL was more northern than the NL, but so was the AA. Louisville was the most southern team there. Jersey City was the next most southern team in the IL. The third top minor league, the PCL, probably had cities with much less history of racial conflict than those further east in the other 2 leagues.

Timmy Pea
Timmy Pea
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Neil – See my post below where I talk about Hank Aaron getting called racial names while playing in the Northern League. We’re talking about cities with almost no minority populations or ties to the civil war. I’m quite sure Duluth, MN or Aberdeen, SD were not hot beds of racial hatred or left over civil war hard feelings. Duluth Minnesota might as well be in Canada.

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Timmy Pea- “Duluth Minnesota might as well be in Canada.” Geographically yes, but culturally “the iron range” where Duluth is located is quite different from most of the rest of the midwest. It’s a mining society much more like West Virginia and a port more like Baltimore or New Orleans than an agricultural society like most of the rest of the central and upper midwest. That’s not to say that Aaron (or Robinson) wouldn’t have encountered racism if they had played in Minneapolis or someplace like that but I’ve been to both Canada and the Duluth area many times and… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Hartvig @65,

Hey, watch it!

Who’s talking “funny” is a relative thing isn’t it? 🙂

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Neil L

Since I grew up in North Dakota and could have appeared in the movie “Fargo” without having to change my accent perhaps I’m in no position to talk.

Nash Bruce
Nash Bruce
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

LOL, Timmy! I’d agree with you- I’ve never been to Thunder Bay (Ontario), which, for “Dalootians” is the nearest town of any significance,- but I’ve had those who have been there, or even lived there, tell me that it is very similar to Duluth. In fact, Thunder Bay and Duluth are even officially “Sister Cit(ies)”. And, having been back out here a couple of years now, after 8 years in Duluth, it is kinda easy to guess who is here from Minnesota 🙂

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Nash @78, my ol’ Minnesota Twins B-Ref buddy!! Are you back for good in HHS?

Great to hear from ya!

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

This is from Jackie’s wikipedia page… In 2011, the U.S. placed a plaque at Robinson’s Montreal home to honor the ending of segregation in baseball.[258] The home is located at 8232 avenue de Gaspe south of rue de Guizot Est and near Jarry Park and close to Delorimier Stadium, where Robinson played for the Montreal Royals during 1946. In a letter read during the ceremony, Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, wrote: “I remember Montreal and that house very well and have always had warm feeling for that great city. Before Jack and I moved to Montreal, we had just been through… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

Thanks, Jason for copying that over. I’m sure Florida must have been rough for him that spring of 1946.

Timmy Pea
Timmy Pea
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

For the record there were other states with split allegiances during the civil war. The obvious 2 being Missouri and Kentucky. Some of the territories were up in the air also.

no statistician but
no statistician but
8 years ago

To those of us who can remember that far back, Robinson on the field seemed a bundle of controlled aggression directed toward one thing, winning the game. Something I’ve always felt, but of course with no statistical way to substantiate it, is that he rejuvenated the stolen base as a strategic weapon, leading first to Mays and Aparicio, then onward to the proliferation of base stealers in the Sixties.

Any help on this from you stat guys?

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

First, John, great quote indeed from Ford Frick. I was moved by his words and yours.

Yeah, no stat, I never saw Jackie R play, but the one thing I always took from the little film I’ve seen of him was similar to yours: the reckless abandon with which he attacked the basepaths. To me, it’s very reminiscent of two other players I never saw play: Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. All three seemed to be hurdling themselves toward the next base with every ounce of energy they could muster out of their bodies.

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

That reckless abandon thing is most certainly true. All footage I’ve ever seen of Robinson is that he approached every play, no matter, the circumstances, with 100% of his efforts and energy.

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago

For one thing, Robinson led the majors in steals in ’47 and ’49. He was in the top ten in every year but ’53. I wouldn’t say Robinson revitalized the steal (he only stole 30 once) but he was consistent and people noticed that he was a good base stealer. In my estimation, Robinson was good for the era but Mays, Aparicio, and of course Wills were the guys to make the SB useful again. Plus, the late 30s early 40s had some proficient stealers (though this may have been a product of the wartime era) — Ben Chapman, George… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago
Reply to  vivaeljason

Not that this means much statistically, but my father, who was a NY Giant fan, said Robinson was one of a kind-while he didn’t steal that much, he continuously pressured the pitcher and the infield. He thought Jackie was the most exciting player in the game-always going full out, always challenging the other team.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

Listening to the Braves broadcast, they were talking about Jackie and his steal of home in game 1 of the 1955 World Series against the Yanks. Apparently he was dancing up and down the third base line repeatedly, tempting Whitey Ford to pick him off before he finally took off for home plate and slid in safely, cutting the Yanks lead to 6-5. NYY hung on to win:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA195509280.shtml

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Wow, that’s a close call. He actually looked safe to me, John, as I think his foot touched the plate a split second before Yogi tagged him on the ankle. Tough to call him out, though. We all know the old adage about the ball beating the baserunner to the base thing, and, just hazarding a guess, I’d say that was the prevailing sentiment back then too.

Voomo Zanzibar
8 years ago
Reply to  bstar

@43
No video, but scroll to the bottom and there is a photo of the ump making the out call on Martin:

http://stuffnobodycaresabout.com/2011/09/14/vintage-photos-stealing-home/

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
8 years ago
Reply to  vivaeljason

Funny you should mention Ben Chapman. As manager of the Phils in 1947 he was probably the most virulent racist attacker of Robinson of all. He encouraged the team to join him in his racial barrages against Jackie. When the Yankees took on the Dodgers in the WS during Jackie’s time he was the player I feared the most. I only saw him play in person once, in the 1956 WS. Chapman, Case and Stirnweiss were all blazing fast, accounting for their SB totals. Besides Chapman’s peak was prior to WWII and Case was a great base stealer prior to… Read more »

no statistician but
no statistician but
8 years ago

Had to check my facts on this, but Robinson was a college man through 1941, took a sports admin job that summer and was drafted in 1942, so I don’t think he could have upped his WAR by much before 1946. Life intervenes.

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago

World War II sort of did that to a lot of careers. However, baseball might not have been integrated in 1947 if not for the war. If I recall correctly, one of the things that led to Happy Chandler agreeing to Rickey’s proposal was Chandler believing that people who fought for our country deserving the same rights regardless of skin color. Baseball still may have integrated in 1947 with or without World War II (Landis’s death was still a huge motivating factor), but we can never be sure (obviously).

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  vivaeljason

You touched on it, but I think the most important factor in Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson to integrate MLB was the death of Landis. There had been talk of organizations and individuals pressuring MLB to integrate before WWII, but none of it was realistic as long as Landis was the Commissioner. Is it a coincidence that Landis died in November 1944, and Rickey announced the signing of Robinson in October 1945? I could be wrong about this – it could be that Landis’ attitude towards integration was no more (or less) bigoted than the average American at the time… Read more »

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

All interesting discussion, but baseball was Robinson’s “worst sport” in those years. I think, all things being equal, Robinson would have opted for football if not for all other circumstances in the way. That said, if he has been able to go to baseball, he very well could have been a major contributor at 20. However, if we go down the road of “what if the MLB was not segregated in the 1930s,” my mind gets racing as to what Gibson and Paige would have done…but that’s a discussion for some other day. Of course, I remember watching something (I… Read more »

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

I definitely agree there. Robinson’s legend (probably) only would have grown if he had, say, three or four seasons tacked on at the beginning.

I just like to speculate about all possibilities…call it the alternate historian in me.

topper009
topper009
8 years ago

Robinson is the only 4 sport letter winner in UCLA history

BryanM
BryanM
8 years ago

John , Great stuff – No-one who saw him play could doubt that Jackie was a very, very great ballplayer, who clearly belongs on anyone’s list of the greatest of al time. He also had to be a great human being to deal with what he dealt with in the 1940s and early 1950s. I think it is no coincidence that he leads John’s list in HBP with 72, and he played, of course without a helmet. I think in general our statistics tend to under measure the contributions of the most skillful baserunners, and that it would be possible… Read more »

BryanM
BryanM
8 years ago

I hope it’s clear in the foregoing that I mean to say ( with a tip of the cap to No Stat) that numbers are usually a pretty good indicator of a player’s contribution, but in Jackie’s special case, great as the numbers are, they seriously underrepresent his contribution on the field , not just from base running

Doug
Editor
8 years ago

Some of Robinson’s less well known, but more impressive achievements:
– 1st in B-R oWAR 4 consecutive seasons (1949-52)
– also 1st in dWAR (all positions) in 1951
– in first season as an outfielder in 1953, his 1.2 dWAR is 3rd among all players, and places him 2nd among all OFers in TZR
– career rate of 39.1% rate of runs scored per TOB, one of only 21 players since 1920 above 39%

To me, it’s rather embarrasing to MLB that he managed “only” 77.5% support in his HOF vote.

vivaeljason
vivaeljason
8 years ago
Reply to  Doug

On the plus side, he got in on his first ballot. At least there were 75%+ of baseball writers who didn’t have their heads that far up their backsides.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

JA, were the early 1950’s not the glory days of baseball over all time?

I know that the owners held all the cards in those days, but was it not a kinder, gentler, more innocent time?

Three NY teams, no ecomonic depressions, no world wars (the Korean War notwithstanding), monetary expansion in the U.S. and …. the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Relative) for its time big-money intruded by the late ’50’s when franchises were moved west.

~wipes a nostalgic tear from eye~ almost

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

No, JA, I am not pulling your leg. I am dead serious.

I did not experience the early 1950’s directly but it is recorded for me in old black-and-white photos and old, grainy, baseball video highlights.

Baseball was NY-centric in those times but who cares. The Giants-Yankees-Dodgers rivalries both in the regular season and post-season, from second-hand accounts, have yet to be repeated.

That was the age of baseball “heros”, long before free agency and playing for the highest bidder.

In all earnestness, please correct me if I am wrong. Am I some kind of victim of MLB manipulation?

no statistician but
no statistician but
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

In the Fifties baseball was king, as in the previous decades of the century. For many if not most sports fans and athletes, football and basketball were what you did while you waited for the spring to come. That being said, the Fifties were the era of childhood trauma, not happy days. Two or three times a day there were public service announcements on your 11-inch TV advising of what to do in case of nuclear attack, plus air raid drills and confrontation with the Russians highlighting the news. A lot of people have blotted those things from memory.

BryanM
BryanM
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

Like all kids in the ’50s I was a baseball fan, In my case Detroit in Kaline’s glorious rookie season , back then, it was the job of sportswriters to build up the image of local heroes and never to write anything that would tarnish them; only after he retired did Mantle retroactively become a skirt-chasing drunk. What I am saying is that it was a world of make- believe, which the adults knew well enough was fake , but we kids took for real. Baseball was important, all the same, in a way it can never be again with… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

Bryan @50, good post to shatter some of my romantic notions about the 1950’s. I’m a little bit disconcerted by the assertion that sports media hid the clay feet of our baseball heros back then, so that they appeared larger than life. Perhaps you are right that there was a certain naivete in the general, baseball-ticket-buying public, but fake seems like a harsh word. As I read about it, there was a general optimism in American society about the future and this was reflected in people identifying passionately with their baseball stars. Far more than now, as I see it.… Read more »

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

An earlier version of this post was lost in the interweb yesterday. Baseball in the early 50’s was in bad shape. 1948 was the record year for attendance, and it kept on dropping from there. (The league numbers look better than they should after 1952, because of the teams that moved.) They were in old ball parks downtown with no parking, while fans were moving to the suburbs and buying cars. (Minor leagues were dying out.) Very few if any of the teams were fully integrated, many were still fully segregated. The media concentrated in NY loved that there was… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

kds @88, I have great respect for you as a knowledgable and intelligent poster in High Heat Stats, But I have to take exception to your characterization of anyone who disagrees with you about the 1950’s as being biased and guilty of idiocy. I have no bias, as far as I am aware, toward a particular era of baseball. My impression is formed by a lifetime of exposure to baseball sources. I’ve never played Stratomatic, but look at Shping’s post @91. So the right field wall in Ebbets’ Field, the Shot Heard Round the World, and “The Catch” are all… Read more »

Nash Bruce
Nash Bruce
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Brett’s ’85 SOM card was pretty damn good too :-p

Shping
Shping
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Dang that Strat-o-matic! That’s actually why i’m so split on this issue. Yes, we tend to overglamorize the Golden 50s in many ways, and i’m as as guilty as anyone of that. It’s sometimes weird for me, for example, to explain to people how or why i’m a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that ceased to exist a decade before i was born. And a large part of the reason for that is… That amazing ’53 Dodgers team was (and still is) a blast to play SOMatic with and really brought the era alive for me! Every… Read more »

Shping
Shping
8 years ago
Reply to  Shping

@97 — Yeah, i heard about that SOM mix-up but luckily never bought that set. Guess it would have been kinda like having all the girls in the bars fall for the same lines all the time — no challenge!

Think I’ll have to play a Jamie Moyer game one of these days, just for ol’ times sake! Maybe i’ll have him face Satchel Paige or Warren Spahn, and see if i can throw in Minnie Minoso somehow.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

Arguments why the {post-WWII to pre-expansion} days were _not_ the “glory days” of baseball: -the almost total domination of pennant winners by several teams, mostly the three NYC teams – only several other teams beyond the ones above were even contending for the pennant at any one time – MLB cities still confined _entirely_ to the same northeast part of the USA, entirely north and east of St Louis (although KC and Milwaukee spread the teams out a bit) – loss of many many minor league teams – attendance declining throughout this era, as both the ballparks and the urban… Read more »

birtelcom
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

To me, it is one of the more amazing stats in baseball team history that over the eight seasons from 1949 through 1956, 46 World Series games were played and every single one, without exception, was won by a New York City team.

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Good or bad for baseball, birtelcom, objectively speaking? After all, it was the Big Apple, even then.

birtelcom
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

MLB attendance hit a record average of about 16,900 per game in 1948, just before the above-referenced string of total NYC post-season dominance. Attendance then declined repeatedly in the following years, dropping as low as about 11,600 a game in 1953 before climbing back a little bit from that trough to 13,300 a game by 1956, the last of the eight years NYC World Series domination. MLB attendance did not get back as high as the 1948 average of 16,900 per game until 1977. There might have been many causes of the drop in attendance after 1948, and there may… Read more »

kds
kds
8 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Lots of good posts with the same ideas I put in #88.

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago

Regarding Campanis and the whole idea of integration, there’s also something else which is hard to describe unless you actually saw it, and I think Richard Chester can talk about it better than I can. Dial back 40-50 years, even putting aside Jim Crow laws, people thought about race entirely differently. Many who abhorred overt racism and felt strongly that African Americans should have equality under the law, did not necessarily see them as equals. Constance Baker Motley was the first African American Federal Judge-in 1966. In popular culture, it wasn’t until the late sixties-early seventies when African American actors… Read more »

Mark in Sydney
Mark in Sydney
8 years ago

Wasn’t it in ken Burn’s “Baseball” that Mr Rickey took Jackie Robinson, not because he was the finest player, but because he was a “color-man” (trans: a man proud of his racial heritage) and had the mental toughness to succeed in breaking the color barrier?

We are all the poorer in not having Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neill, Willard Brown and the rest playing in a combined league. Great that this sad chapter was finally closed (it required the death of dinosaurs such as Landis), and shameful that it ever existed.

James S
James S
8 years ago

My dad was a die hard Brooklyn Dodger fan. I remember asking what he thought about Jackie Robinson in 1947. He said “I didn’t like it at first. When I saw that he helped the Dodgers win games, I was OK with it.”

I always thought that was a very honest answer. I also think that probably summed up a lot of attitudes for the time.

Shping
Shping
8 years ago

Thank you, Jackie. For everything.

Timmy Pea
Timmy Pea
8 years ago

The most I ever learned about race and baseball, was from reading Hank Aaron’s book. It’s a great book and I would suggest it to everyone. Hank talks about being called bad names in Duluth Minnesota when he was in the minors. That’s not Duluth Georgia and it shows what a complicated issue it was. I would be interested to know who the men where in the 1940’s that fought against Robinson being able to play. I’ll bet some of the names will surprise you.

topper009
topper009
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Theres also that footage of Enos ‘Country’ Slaughter spiking Jackie while he was playing first base.

Timmy Pea
Timmy Pea
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Great stuff JA. I’m sure there was plenty of ugliness to go around on the field for Robinson. I’m sure that for over half a century before Robinson, it was not just a baseball issue, it was a political issue as well. If I remember my history correctly, Truman had just integrated the Army and Navy about the same time Robinson was allowed to play. My point being there was plenty of blame to go around at the highest levels of government as well as baseball for a long time.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

As for Bobby Bragan, he attended Branch Rickey’s funeral because he said, that Mr. Rickey made him a better person. He was of course talking about Jackie joining the Dodgers. This quote epitomizes how momentous the occassion was. Words can’t fully express this. All I know is that without Jackie maybe we don’t have Rosa Parks, Martin Luther the King, and even Barack Obama. Baseball is a great game that keeps on giving throughout our lives, and yet the greatest gift we ever received is not the enjoyment we get year after year from the game we love. The greatest… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

Not for anything, but I believe Jack Johnson, Dixie Kid, Sam Langford, and Joe Louis took a ton of shit 35 and 10 years before Robinson for the color of their skin….athletics and entertainment helped the white man finally accept the fact that these “people”, indeed, did possess the same traits as their white heroes and entertainers – talent. If it weren’t for the lessons those in power learned from watching blacks compete in athletics and entertainment, places like Wall Street, corporate America, and even Main Street would still be without black faces in positions of power. I get Robinson’s… Read more »

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

Yes, as much as people wish to simplify the narrative, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson did not integrate MLB entirell by themselves. As you eluded to above, there were people “laying the groundwork” for that for decades. What I would like to see on future April 15th celebrations, is the acknowledgement of the players that broke the color barrier on those teams besides the Dodgers. There were 15 other teams besides the Dodgers that also integrated, but you hear almost nothing about the particular players that integrated them (not that Robinson doesn’t deserve all the credit he has gotten, I… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul E

There has to be a first time for everything, and Robinson’s singular accomplishment is that he was first, he was great, and he was great in a team sport-the preeminent team sport of the time. By being great, he showed the folk in owner’s boxes (who might have had their biases, but rarely when it came to business) that they could improve their teams without killing their box offices. He didn’t bring equality to baseball, nor did he end bias, but it was his first step, his style of play, his success, which pushed integration out of the token into… Read more »

Nash Bruce
Nash Bruce
8 years ago
Reply to  Timmy Pea

Timmy, Duluth MN is a very closed place in general. Not racist, just closed. I was as white as the non-spade part of the ace of spades, when I lived there, but I could never quite get my foot in the door, in part because I didn’t have family ties there, and in part because I couldn’t fit into the very narrow definition of what the town considers to be ‘normal’. It is a town with a rich history, and a decent population base, which is essentially totally isolated geographically. Which in turn insulates/isolates it somewhat from the outside world.… Read more »

Timmy Pea
Timmy Pea
8 years ago
Reply to  Nash Bruce

I wasn’t trashing Duluth, if I remember correctly from Hank’s book he got crap all over the place.

Nash Bruce
Nash Bruce
8 years ago
Reply to  Timmy Pea

no didn’t think that you were! 🙂

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago

#76/birtelcom – “at the very least it doesn’t appear that New York City’s dominance was doing any good for major league baseball attendance nationwide” Yeah, that’s the point that _never_ gets brought up whenever someone claims that the 1947-1960 era was the true Golden Age of baseball. I think the reason that this period got labeled as the “Golden Age” was because: – New York was the country’s media center during this period, so… – many of the baseball writers who, in the 1970/80s, retospectively wrote the history of baseball, started their baseball careers in the NYC area during this… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Lawrence, you make many good points about why subsequent baseball generations might view the 1950’s through rose-tinted glasses rather than with the hard lens of objective reality. I may be one of those who has bought in to the sentimentalization of those times. It is difficult to deny anything that you have written. However, I am thinking of all the books that have written about NY teams from the fifties, eulogizing them, immortalizing them. And what about the Scullys, Barbers, and Allens, those golden-throated orators who defined our perceptions of the game back when radio was king? Didn’t people outside… Read more »

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

No, I am _not_ being flippant with that statement of mine that you quoted at the end. I started following MLB back in 1967, with the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox team, Yaz’s Triple Crown Year, then next year “The Year of the Pitcher”, etc… It would be very easy for me to get all nostalgic about that era (1967-1979), and proclaim it the “golden era of baseball”. It is, in fact, basic human nature to believe that cultural conditions when you were between eight and twenty one years old were at their very best (when you first experienced them), and… Read more »

Neil L.
Neil L.
8 years ago
Reply to  Lawrence Azrin

Fair enough, Lawrence. I understand more clearly what you meant by the Golden Years of baseball are now.

I concede that in our youth and young adulthood we are probably at the most impressionable and idealistic time of life.

And there is no denying that the history of baseball is NY-skewed, paticularly in the time frame we are discussing.

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Neil L.

Neil L., OK, I’m glad that we’re on the same page. The pull of nostalgia, “BITGOD” (Back In The Good Old Days) is very powerful. It amuses me no end how certain 70s/80s MLB players now talk about how superior their game was to the present day. Back when _those_ guys were playing, there was no shortage of players from the 40s/50s/60s eager to discuss how their game was better, in every way, than the 70s/80s baseball game. Jim Rice and Goose Gossage seem to be the most prominent of the current BITGOD-ers. Ironic that they are the spokesmen, as… Read more »

Max
Max
8 years ago

OK, I know I am oversimplifying things here, but if you look at Clemente and Robinson, switch a few homers for stolen bases, some hits for walks, and they are basically the same hitter. Would Jackie’s numbers had looked more like Clemente’s if he had come up when he was 20 rather than 28? Would we think of Robinson as that kind of hitter? I like to think so. After all, both Clemente and Robinson get overlooked as players because of their bigger contributions to society. Anyway, I don’t know if i am conveying what I am trying to get… Read more »

BryanM
BryanM
8 years ago

Neil@ 51 Sorry if “fake” seems harsh, I should have stuck with make-believe, but celebrities (not just sports) were supposed to be people we aspired to be and the press actively airbrushed away their defects. It seems to me that now we have taken the opposite approach, constantly digging for every weakness ; maybe it’s better but….

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  BryanM

Bryan, I think somewhere in the middle of the two extremes you just described would be far more appropriate. It bothers me that the scandalous, negative, controversial off-the-field stuff often is front page news while who-did-what in the actual games gets put on the back burner. I just don’t really care about some he said/she said crap someone put on twitter or what sort of remark someone made about this or that, I just care about the games. We need to get back to that.