Tuesday, April 15, 1947.
It’s a damp, overcast Tax Day. The smells of hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, kinishes, and stale beer are in the air.
We’re at Ebbets field in the neighborhood of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York for a 1PM opening day National League baseball game between the visiting Boston Braves and our hometown Brooklyn Dodgers.
Right before the season manager Leo Deroucher was suspended for the entire year by the offices of Major League Baseball for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
at the last minnute, Burt Shotton, a calm, steady presence was called in to take the helm.
The bums are expected to contend this year and the fans are excited.
The old Red Head, Red Barber is up in the press booth calling the action on radio for the Columbia Broadcasting System.
The Ebbets Field celebrities are all here:
There’s the Dodgers Sym-phony. Hilda Chester the cowbell lady. Gladys Gooding is on the organ...and like Brooklynite writer Pete Hammil one said, the rough democracy of the upper deck is filling up with restless natives.
There’s 26,623 total in attendance. Men, women, and children with all kinds of faces donning Dodgers caps, windbreakers, flannel jackets, letterman’s sweaters, sport coats, and suits.
They’re Italian, African American, jewish, Irish, polish, Norwegian. It’s the proverbial melting pot, come to life.
At 12:45PM, the Dodgers begin to trot out of the clubhouse as Second Baseman Eddie Stanky, Center Fielder Peter Reiser, Catcher Bruce Edwards, and pitcher Joe Hatten run out.
Hatten warms up as the time ticks towards 12:50, and one by one the rest of the dodgers come out taking their positions for infield warmups.
Right fielder Dixie Walker. Left Fielder Gene Hermanski. Third Baseman Spider Jorgensen. Short Stop Pee Wee Reese.
Finally, to the fans begin to buzz as the team’s new acquisition from Montreal of the International League jogs out to first base.
He was born in Cairo Georgia, the youngest son of a Share Cropper that grew into a four-sport letterman at UCLA, and a second lieutenant in the army during World War II.
His name is Jack Roosevelt Robinson and he’s the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues since Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884.
He casually tosses his teammates infield practice until 1:01PM when Home Place umpire Babe Pinell signals for the start of the game.
Robinson smooths the dirt in a playing path by first base and sets himself, knees bent, slightly crouched, with his oversized first-basemen’s mitt on his left hand on the ground and open.
Boston Short Stop Dick Culler digs in as Brooklyn lefty Joe Hatton winds and delivers the pitch.
Culler swings and slaps a ground ball towards third base. He digs out of the batter’s box as Spider Jorgensen charges in to his right and fields the ball on a high hop, throwing slightly off balance towards first base.
Robinson, right foot on the bag, stretches as far as he can, catching Jorgensen’s throw and getting Culler out by a step.
And just like that, a fifty-year old gentleman’s agreement between changing owners and the commissioner’s office, that had barred any dark skinned men from playing in the league, was dead.
It died here in Flatbush at 1PM, on a Tuesday afternoon as 26,000 watched.
And wildly cheered.