Jackie Robinson debuted at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City
Most baseball fans know the story by heart: Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers when they faced the Boston Braves on April 15.
The rest is history.
But this is not entirely correct.
Robinson’s real historic moment happened a year earlier.
And it happened in the New Jersey minor leagues.
Before the Hall of Fame played an inning for the Dodgers, he appeared on April 18, 1946 for the Montreal Royals of the International League in a game at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City against the Jersey City Giants. .
“There was a big difference in the baseball crowd that day,” Anne Schraff wrote in her 2008 book, Jackie Robinson, an American hero. “The fans weren’t just from Jersey City. People had come from New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore and places even further afield. Some white fans had come to see what would happen when a black man entered the pitch for the first time. The many black fans had come to share what was a proud moment. “
Schraff wrote that Robinson received more cheers and support than boos, but noted that “the crowd cheered politely, but not warmly.”
During his first strike at bat, Robinson hit a ball on the ground at the shortstop for an easy out. But in the third inning, with two men on base, he swung on the first pitch and belted it way over the left-field fence for a three-run homerun.
The book indicates that Robinson’s manager at the time, Clay Hopper, a Mississippian who had opposed his place on the team, patted his new star on the back as he passed third after the four-bagger. .
“It was the day the dam broke between me and my teammates,” Robinson later wrote. “People from the North and the South, they let me know how much they appreciated the way I had gone. “
In the fifth round, Robinson made his way through, stole the second, and went to the third on a Ground Out. He then scored again on balk. On his next at bat in the seventh, the rookie hit a single, stole second again and scored on a triple.
Three hits and three runs scored. Not bad for a beginner.
In the end, the Royals beat the Giants 14-1.
Roosevelt Stadium, located on Highway 440 and Danforth Avenue, was demolished in 1985 after years of degradation and neglect, according to MiLB.com, the Minor League Baseball website. But a statue honoring Robinson’s early days in the city was erected in 1998 a few miles away.
Thousands of people walk past the 14 foot statue at Journal Square PATH station daily to remember what happened in the city 75 years ago.
Another link from New Jersey
But the Jersey City Giants aren’t the only New Jersey link to break baseball’s color barrier.
A few months after Robinson’s debut in 1947 as the first colored man in the National League and the Major Leagues, another player broke the wall of racing in the American Leaque. Larry Doby, originally from South Carolina, moved to Paterson at age 14 with his mother and then attended East Side High School.
After excelling in baseball, football, basketball and track and field in high school, Doby joined the Newark Eagles of the Negro League in 1942 at the age of 17.
In 1943, World War II was in full swing and Doby joined the Navy for two years. Upon his release, he played a season for the San Juan Senators in Puerto Rico, then joined the Eagles in 1946.
A year later, Doby started for the Cleveland Indians on July 3, 1947, just three months after Robinson’s Major League debut. He went on to play 13 seasons in the big leagues, for the Indians and later the Tigers and White Sox.
Doby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. He died in Montclair in 2003.
The New Jersey Jackals and Passaic County honored the groundbreaking legend last month with a tribute to the July 23 Jackals game, a tour of Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, where Doby played ball in high school, and a special screening on July 29 of a documentary about his life.
Name of the team of miners of the week
Now the name of the minor league of the week: Toledo Mudhens.
Full disclosure, as a fan of M * A * S * H, the 1970s and 1980s comedy, I first heard about the Mudhens from Corporal Max Klinger, the fictional character of M * A * S * H performed by Jamie Farr.
Farr, himself from Toledo, spat stories and tributes for his hometown during the series, often citing his love for the Mudhens. (He even wore a team jersey in several later episodes).
Well, they’ve been a real squad since 1896, making them one of the oldest continuously competitive minor league teams in the country.
Launched that season under the name “Swamp Angels”, they played at Bay View Park, located near a swamp inhabited by American coots, also known as “mud hens”. Local sports journalists started calling them “Mud Hens” and the name stuck.
Among his notable alumni are Jim Thorpe, Casey Stengel, Bobby Murcer, Frank Viola, Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson.
The Mudhens of today are an AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. True to the swamp theme, their team store is the Swamp Shop, while their restaurant and restaurant is the Bird Cage.
As for Farr, the team haven’t forgotten their most famous fan, regularly hosting M * A * S * H themed events and even creating a bobblehead in his honor.
Joe Strupp is an award-winning journalist with 30 years of experience covering education and Monmouth County for APP.com and Asbury Park Press. He’s also a die-hard Yankees fan when he’s not watching the wonderful minor leagues.