While I love the idea of a set containing all the Hall of Famers, I would die a little inside every time I opened a pack and found an executive. Walter O’Malley was the Dodgers owner from 1950 to 1970 and moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. Yawn.
Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. It is impossible for us to realize the amount of pressure he was under that day, or that season. He persevered throughout his ten-year career, starting in five All-Star Games and helping the Dodgers to six World Series.
(October 17, 1915 – April 4, 2016)
Former MLB catcher for the Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates, Mike Sandlock passed away Monday at the age of 100. At the time of his death he was the oldest verified former major leaguer. That distinction now goes to 99-year old Eddie Carnett.
Rookie of the Year in 1949. Four times an All-Star. Cy Young and MVP Award winner in 1956. 149 wins. But Don Newcombe was more than just a good pitcher. He was a good hitter, too.
Often used as a pinch hitter during his career, Newk racked up 15 homers and 108 RBI in his 10-year career. In 1955 alone, he knocked the ball out of the park seven times on his way to a 2.5 oWAR score for the season. His batting average was .271, with 238 hits in 878 at-bats.
The Dodgers foolishly traded Newcombe during the 1958 season to the Redlegs for four players: Steve Bilko, Johnny Klippstein, Art Fowler, and Charlie Rabe. He continued his hitting display during three seasons with the Reds, pounding out 58 hits in 201 at-bats. That’s a .289 average!
The Reds sure could use a bat like Newcombe’s on the bench this year…or any year. He was an underrated player during his career, and while the Dodgers do a good job of recognizing his greatness, he is still overlooked by many fans.
Rickey & Robinson
by Roger Kahn
Rodale Books, 2014
The story of baseball’s integration has been told time and again, and the latest release from legendary sportswriter Roger Kahn adds even more to the narrative in Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball. While much in the book is old news, and several of the passages and quotes were even seen in the 2013 movie 42, Kahn also reveals intimate stories about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey that had not yet been made public. He explains the support Robinson received from Jewish sportswriters like himself, hoping that his success would also lessen the discrimination in the press box against Jews and other minorities.
Some of the best parts of Rickey & Robinsons are the reproduction of past articles, including “The Branch Rickey They Don’t Write About” from a 1953 issue of Our Sports, a magazine Kahn and Robinson developed together. There was also a threat of a strike by National League clubs, including the St. Louis Cardinals, that was reported by that New York Herald Tribune writer Stanley Woodward, and prevented by NL president Ford C. Frick. Kahn also reprinted an article by Jimmy Cannon that appeared in the New York Post titled, “Lynch Mobs Don’t Always Wear Hoods.” Add those other voices to Kahn’s own insightful writing, and baseball fans have an in depth report of not only the happenings of the mid-1940s, but some of the attitudes and opinions that accompanied those events.
You may have read a lot about Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, but there is certainly more that can be learned from Roger Kahn. Baseball fans owe it to themselves to become acquainted with this story once again.
(January 17, 1931 – June 4, 2014)
An infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Senators, Mets, Reds and Toei Flyers in the 1950s and 1960s, Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday at the age of 83. Zimmer also managed for several years and led the Chicago Cubs to a 1st place finish in 1989.
(February 25, 1921 – October 8, 2013)
An outfielder who played for the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves, and Brooklyn Dodgers, Andy Pafko passed away yesterday at the age of 92. He had a good career, batting .285 with over 200 home runs, but is probably most known today as card #1 in the 1952 Topps set. Pictured above is his 1951 Bowman issue.
Everyone knows that Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers…but where was he before that went down? Branch Rickey signed him in October, 1945, after one season with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs; Jackie played in 1946 with the International League Montréal Royals before taking the field with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. In 124 games for the Royals, Jackie batted .349 with three home runs and 66 RBI.
The Twitter account @Royals_46season follows Robinson’s 1946 with Montréal, beginning February 27. “Follow in real time the 1946 season of the Montréal Royals, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball.”
In his search for the perfect trailblazer for baseball’s integration, Branch Rickey was looking for more than just a good player.
— Montreal Royals 46(@Royals_46season) April 14, 2013
Only a handful of Twitter users are following @Royals_46season. It is an interesting look at #42’s first season under the Dodgers control, though he hadn’t yet worn a Brooklyn uniform. Nearly everyone focuses on Robinson’s rookie year in 1947, or his MVP season in 1949, or his contributions during the Dodgers’ six World Series appearances from 1947-1956. It’s nice to see some attention given to a different storyline, one that laid the foundation for his later success.
See also: The Infinite Baseball Card Set’s tribute to Robinson’s 1945 season with the Kansas City Monarchs.