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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.