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Teammate Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leagues of Baseball

An Integrated Social Studies Unit Based on the Life and Times of Jackie Robinson


Photograph courtesy of The Baseball Gallery

"Take me Out to the Ball Game"

"Jackie Robinson was more than just my teammate. He had a tremendous amount of talent, ability, and dedication. Jackie set a standard for future generations of ball players. He was a winner.
Jackie Robinson was also a man."

-Pee Wee Reese
October 31, 1989

Introduce students to the book Teammates by Peter Golenbock. Teammates is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player on a major league baseball team and how on a fateful day in Cincinnati, Pee Wee Reese took a stand and declared Jackie his teammate.

"Very early in the season, the Dodgers traveled west to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Reds...The Reds played in a small ballpark where the fans sat close to the field. The players could almost feel the breath of the fans on the back of their necks. Many who came that day screamed terrible, hateful things at Jackie when the Dodgers were on the field. ...When Pee Wee heard the fans yelling at Jackie, Pee Wee decided to take a stand..."

An Excerpt from the picture book Teammates


Crosley Field Cincinnati


From left to right: Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Jackie Robinson, Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe,
Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella
Photograph courtesy of the Jackie Robinson Society

The Life of Jackie

Baseball's first black player, Jackie Robinson was an infielder who broke baseball's color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers promoted him to the majors from the Montreal Royals in 1947.

Though he spent most of his career as a second baseman, Robinson also served extensive terms at first and third during his ten-year career with the Dodgers. His .311 lifetime average included one batting title (.342 in 1949) and helped him win two stolen base crowns. He won both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards.

Robinson, a fierce competitor, ordered to turn a deaf ear to the considerable racial abuse he endured early in his career, helped the Dodgers finish first in six of the ten seasons he was with the team.

The righthanded hitter, widely respected as a daring and skillful baserunner, became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He was Cooperstown's first black inductee.

Jackie Robinson Links

Important Dates in the Life of Jackie Robinson

On January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson is born to Jerry and Mallie Robinson in Cairo, Georgia. Robinson will become the first black player in 20th century major league history when he debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

  • On March 18, 1942, Jackie Robinson and Nate Moreland, two black players, ask the Chicago White Sox for a tryout. Manager Jimmy Dykes grants both players a workout, but neither will make the Sox' roster.

  • On April 16, 1945, Jackie Robinson and two other black players, Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams, participate in a Boston Red Sox tryout at Fenway Park. The Red Sox elect to sign none of the three. Robinson and Jethroe will eventually become stars in the major leagues.

  • On October 30, 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers' executive Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson, an infielder with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, to a minor league contract. Robinson will play the entire 1946 season with the Montreal Royals of the International League before earning a promotion to Brooklyn in 1947.

  • On April 18, 1946, Jackie Robinson makes his minor league debut for the Montreal Royals, the International League affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Organized Baseball in the 20th century. Robinson collects a home run and three singles in his debut, on his way to the International League batting title.


    "Jackie Robinson" by Canadian artist Jennifer Ettinger (ettinger@portal.ca) found atNegro League Baseball Art Gallery

  • On April 10, 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first black player to sign a major league contract in the 20th century. Robinson signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers, whose general manager, Branch Rickey, had personally recruited Robinson from the Negro Leagues. Five days after signing his Dodger contract, Robinson will make his on-field debut for Brooklyn, going hitless in three at-bats. In 1947, Robinson will hit .297 and steal 29 bases while playing first base for the Dodgers. He will go on to win the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award, as voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

  • On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson makes his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player to play major league baseball in the modern era. Robinson goes 0-for-3 against the Boston Braves, but flawlessly handles 11 chances at first base.

  • On June 24, 1947, Jackie Robinson steals home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, helping the Brooklyn Dodgers to a 4-2 win. The theft marks the first of 19 steals of home by Robinson during his major league career.

  • On August 28, 1948, Jackie Robinson hits for the cycle in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. Robinson scores three runs and drives in a pair to help the Brooklyn Dodgers to a 12-7 victory.

  • On July 12, 1949, Jackie Robinson makes his All-Star game debut for the National League, marking the first time that a black player participates in a midsummer classic. Robinson is joined by fellow African-Americans Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe on the National League team, and Larry Doby on the American League roster.

  • On October 6, 1949, Jackie Robinson scores the only run in the Dodgers' 1-0 win over the New York Yankees in Game Two of the World Series. The game represents the only win for the Dodgers in the 1949 Series.

  • On April 23, 1954, Jackie Robinson steals home on the front end of a rare triple steal, helping the Dodgers to a 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

  • On September 28, 1955, Jackie Robinson steals home in Game One of the World Series, but the Brooklyn Dodgers lose to the New York Yankees, 6-5. Robinson's eighth inning steal of home had brought the Dodgers within one run. Film replays show that Robinson should have been called out on the controversial play.


    "Stolen Base" by Dane Tilghman found at Negro League Baseball Art Gallery

  • On December 13, 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers trade Jackie Robinson to the rival New York Giants for pitcher Dick Littlefield and $35,000 in cash. Less than a month later, Robinson will retire, voiding the trade.

  • On January 5, 1957, Jackie Robinson announces his retirement, voiding a recent trade to the rival New York Giants. In December, the Dodgers had dealt Robinson to the Giants for pitcher Dick Littlefield and $35,000. Giants' vice-president Charles Feeney had offered Robinson a $60,000 contract for the 1957 season, in the hope that Robinson would agree to report to the Giants and help boost sagging attendance at the Polo Grounds. Robinson, citing problems with his legs, decides to call it quits.

  • On January 23, 1962, the Baseball Writers Association of America elects Jackie Robinson to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Robinson, who is selected along with Bob Feller, becomes the first African-American to gain election to the Hall.

  • On July 23, 1962, Jackie Robinson is one of four men inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Robinson is joined by Bob Feller, Bill McKechnie, and Edd Roush.. Robinson becomes the first African-American elected to the shrine.

  • On December 9, 1966, future Hall of Famer Branch Rickey dies at the age of 83, nearly a month after suffering a heart attack. Rickey, the man responsible for promoting Jackie Robinson to the major leagues in 1947, had collapsed while giving a speech during his induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

  • On January 29, 1967, former Brooklyn Dodgers' executive Branch Rickey is elected to the Hall of Fame. Rickey and former Pittsburgh Pirate great Lloyd Waner are chosen by the Veterans' Committee. In 1947, Rickey promoted Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, effectively breaking baseball's color line.

  • On October 24, 1972, Hall of Fame Jackie Robinson dies from a heart attack at the age of 53. Ten days earlier, the diabetes-stricken Robinson had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game Two of the World Series.

  • On July 14, 1987, the Baseball Writers Association of America renames the Rookie of the Year Award the "Jackie Robinson Award." In 1947, Robinson won the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award when he played his first major league season for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    Text Compiled by Bruce Markusen
    1997, National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

    Using the above information on the life of Jackie Robinson, have students illustrate a time line depicting the highlights of his lifetime.

    Using the above information on the life of Jackie Robinson, have students paint a mural depicting the important events in his illustrious career.

    Pee Wee Reese

    Branch Rickey

    Don't forget Larry Doby

  • Remember Larry Doby

    Larry Doby was the first African American to ever play in the American League.


    You may order this print at Baseball Art

    It's October 6, 1948, Game 1 of the World Series, the Cleveland Indians vs. the Boston Braves at Braves Field in Beantown. We're in the top of the first inning, one out, and that's Larry Doby at bat for the Indians against Braves' righthander Johnny Sain. Bill Salkeld is the Boston catcher, Earl Torgeson is at first, Eddie Stanky is at second, Alvin Dark is the shortstop and Bob Elliott is playing third. Marvin "Twitch" Rickert is in left, Mike McCormick is in cneter and Tommy Holmes is in right. Sain went the distance, allowing only four hits, as the Braves beat the Indians and Bob Feller 1-0. Feller was superb, himself, allowing just one hit through the first seven innings. But in the eighth, Salkeld walked to open the inning. Pinch-runner Phil Masi moved to seond on McCormick's sacrifice and remained there when Stanky was walked intentionally. After Masi was seemingly picked off at second but ruled safe by umpire Bill Stewart and after Sain lined to right, Holmes singled past third to drive in Masi. The Indians went on to win the Series in six games.

    Visit The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

    The Negro Leagues
    Baseball's All Time Black Team

    Until 1947, when Branch Rickey integrated Major League Baseball by promoting Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, blacks with the ability to play professional baseball were confined to their own leagues.

    In 1920, Rube Foster organized the Negro National League, the first successful black league. It was reformed by Pittsburgh Crawfords' owner Gus Breenlee in 1933, then joined by the Negro American League in 1937. A new East-based Negro National League died in 1948, but the Negro American League played on until 1960. A third black circuit, the Eastern Colored League, lasted from 1923 until 1928.

    While a number of top stars from the black leagues followed Robinson to the majors, too many others played too soon to be considered or were too old at the time major league barriers fell.

    Baseball has recognized their achievements, however, by enshrining many of them in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many stars from the Negro Leagues were considered to be equal or greater in talent than players from the majors. When both men played the Negro Leagues, for example, Josh Gibson was consistently voted the All-Star catcher over young Ray Campanella, who later won three Most Valuable Player Awards in the National League.

    For a list of Negro Baseball Leagues Links please go to The Negro League Research Ideas Page

    Ballparks

    • Ballparks by Munsey and Suppes
      An excellent site chosen by Net Magazine as the Site of the Year
    • Crosley Field
    • Ebbets Field Ventures, LLC
      A company whose mission is to rebuild baseball history through recreation and construction of the original Ebbets Field in an Eastern US urban center.

      The possibilities of integrating the information on this site into math and geography lessons are endless!


    Total Baseball Online Encyclopedia

    The following articles may be found at the Total Baseball Web Site, the home of the official Major League Baseball Encyclopedia. These articles as well as others you might locate are an invaluable supplement to this unit of study.

    Educational Sites Related to Baseball and Jackie Robinson

    In addition to the lesson ideas I have wriiten, other classroom activities may be found at the listed web sites below.

    Literature Sites: Baseball and Jackie Robinson

    Many of the books above may be purchased at: Amazon Books

    The Negro Leagues Ring

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    Steal home toJackie Robinson Breaking the Barriers Lesson Plans

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    Hit a Homer to The Literature Nook Home Page

    For questions, suggestions, links, or comments please e-mail Jeanne at: abc123@powernet.net

    Thank you Jackie Robinson!

    Credits: I am indepted to the following: Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson Society, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, Total Baseball Online Encyclopedia, and the Negroleague Baseball Web Site.
    This site was created for educational purposes only; all disclaimers apply.