[George Vecsey: How Jackie Robinson Changed the Game]
Robinson was not the first black player in Major League Baseball history. This distinction belongs to Moses Fleetwood Walkera catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the American Association of 1884. He only played one season due to injury and soon after black players were banned. But Robinson’s legacy is unmatched: he not only inspired generations of Americans to pursue baseball but also helped black soccer and basketball players gain acceptance into their leagues while devoting himself to the civil rights movement before his death at the age of 53 in 1972.
Robinson’s special relationship with Look magazine is evident on the show. He wrote three articles in 1955, including one entitled “Now I Know Why They Boo Me”, which can be read in the exhibition. Robinson also announced his retirement via Look, instead of a press conference, an unusual move at the time. The magazine donated its New York archives to the museum in the 1950s, and for years negatives and contact prints were buried in its basement. Over the past year, Sean Corcoran and Susan Gail Johnson, the exhibit’s curators, combed through hundreds of negatives before finally deciding which ones would be displayed for this small but powerful exhibit.
At home with his family
Robinson is seen at home with his wife, Rachel Robinson, and son, Jackie Jr. Many of these photos are from 1949, two years after he entered the major leagues. Another photograph shows Robinson typing, an indication of how much Robinson wanted to be in charge of his own story. The Robinsons married in 1946, just before spring training in Florida, and that same year Rachel gave birth to Jackie Robinson Jr. He later died in a car accident in 1971 at age 24.
“It was important to show him as a human being more than this towering figure in baseball history,” Corcoran said. “To ground him as a human being with a personal story.”
At the Club House With His Teammates
The exhibit also shows Robinson at the end of his career, in 1953, apparently having positive interactions with his teammates, as well as some with Robinson shirtless, which would not have been the case. published at the time. In one of the shirtless photos, Robinson is seen talk to a white teammate in the clubhouse. Museum officials believe it to be Carl Furillo, an all-star right fielder.
“His guard is down. It’s a completely intimate moment,” Mr. Corcoran said in an interview. “You don’t know what they’re saying, but they’re having kind of a serious but open discussion with each other.”
These photos show Robinson perhaps a little more comfortable than he was as a rookie, in part because by this point he had proven himself to be one of the best players in the league , which led him to be more accepted in the changing room.
Robinson was an exceptional player. But with that came resentment from opposing teams. Opposing pitchers would often throw at his body. (He was hit 72 times in his career.) In his second full year, he led the National League in hits with seven hits. In seven of his 10 seasons, he was among the top five players hit by opposing pitchers.
Robinson was also a speedster. He led the National League twice in stolen bases – and actually stole home 19 times, which would be today never seen.
In the canoe with Jackie Robinson
Until September 15 at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-534-1672, mcny.org.