Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Hate Crime and Swastika Can’t Mar Jackie Robinson’s Legacy

August 11, 2013 9:27 pm 3 comments

Jackie Robinson. Photo: Bob Sandberg via Wikimedia Commons.

I was flying cross country recently, watching 42, the wonderful biopic on Jackie Robinson, when I got word that a monument honoring him at Coney Island’s MCU park had been defaced by Nazi swastikas and the N racial epithet.

It will take a whole more than that odious hate crime to tear down the legacy of equality and the true level playing field bequeathed to America by Robinson.

The incident brought back memories of 1997, when the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance played a role in marking the 50th anniversary of the breaking of Baseball’s Color Barrier.

It began with a plea from basketball great Tommy Hawkins, the first African American captain of a major U.S. college sports team (Notre Dame), who was then vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He called Center founder Rabbi Marvin Hier to help intercede with Pasadena’s Rose Parade whose leadership had inexplicably turned down the idea of a float honoring Pasadena’s most famous native son. It seems that even 50 years later, not everyone was ready to embrace Robinson’s achievements-on and off the field.

The Center got permission to build the float, and on January 1, 1997, throngs lining the Rose Parade route cheered it – along with tens of millions of viewers across America and around the world.

As a teaching institution, we also decided to create the “Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America” exhibition. An entire floor of our museum was transformed into a mini-Ebbetts Field and a traveling version toured Major and Minor League Baseball Parks. I accompanied the exhibit to New York’s Shea Stadium on the historic night Rachel Robinson, the baseball legend’s widow, and then-President Clinton threw out the first pitch honoring her beloved late husband.

What more is there to say about Jackie Robinson’s legacy?

Let me share two stories by his former teammates, one white, one black:

The late Dodger center fielder, Duke Snyder, and Jackie Robinson were both rookies that fateful 1947 season. Turns out they had competed against each other in high school. “What people forget is that Jackie Robinson was simply the greatest sports figure ever to come out of Southern California,” Snyder told me. “Baseball wasn’t even his best sport. It ranked way behind football, Track and Field, and basketball. I remember competing against him at a multi-sport event in High School. Jackie had just caught the third out in center field, but instead of returning to the dugout, he hopped the fence, anchored the last 100 yards of a team relay race and returned to the outfield without missing a beat. He was simply incomparable”!

And then there was 6 foot 6 Don Newcombe, ever the imposing figure, who told me, “I begged Branch Rickey to let me be the first Black player in the Majors. Why Jackie? He wasn’t even nearly the best black baseball player.”

“I remember Mr. Rickey asked me: ‘Don, how hard can you throw a baseball?’ ‘About 90-95 miles an hour, Mr. Rickey.'”

“And what will you do the first time someone from the other team calls you a ‘nigger'”?

“At that moment, I knew that Mr. Rickey was right. Somehow he knew that only Jackie had the inner strength to withstand the hate”, Newcombe added.

“So when did the Dodgers call you up,” I asked. “The following summer, after opposing pitchers continued to throw at Jackie and rookie Roy Campanella’s heads. “Within a few weeks of me and my 95 mile an hour fastball arriving, those beanings stopped,” he added with a smile.

There were many heroes of the road to equality, but no one did more to show Americans the road to a level playing field than Jackie Robinson. No ugly graffiti, no racial slur, will ever succeed in diminishing the shining achievements of a man who changed America.

3 Comments

  • Ilbert Phillips

    I was born in 1941 and have seen amazing changes in our country. No only in sports but in entertainment, professions and the military. Jackie entered major league baseball in 1847 and Truman desegregated the military in 1948 (which also happens to be the year the state of Israel was born). I believe there was a direct relation. The major changes came, however, in the 1960’s. Consequently, while the U.S. is not perfect, it has changed substantially, far beyond anyone’s dreams.

  • Jack Koplowitz

    Jackie Robinson was six years older than Duke Snider.
    They could not have competed against each other in high
    school.

  • GOOD FOR JACKIE ROBINSON! I never had any interest in baseball, but Jackie
    Robinson isn’t about baseball, he’s about the History of America!!

    This business of discrimination is sickening. The faster it’s over with the better for us as individuals, as Americans, and as citizens of the world. Naziism, (still alive) discrimination in any form, is sick, sickening to all who see it, and a form of mental sickness. There is no place for it…not for individuals, not for America, not for the world at large.

    ENOUGH!!!!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →