Saturday Evening Post offers
insight into integration of baseball
By David King
As part of Black History Month, the Saturday Evening Post – which launched Volume 283 in January – reached back into its voluminous archive for a story about one of the biggest moments in the history of race relations in the United States.
The integration of major league baseball, which in the 1940s was the national pastime, helped launch the civil rights movement. It came before the military was integrated and before the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools and public facilities.
The Post’s story is a fly-on-the-wall view of the first meeting between the player chosen to break the color line, Jackie Robinson, and the man determined to make it happen, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey, and includes this famous exchange:
Rickey’s voice rose, “Suppose I’m a player in the heat of an important ball game!” He drew back and prepared to charge at him. “Suppose I collide with you at second base! When I get up, I yell, ‘You dirty black—’” He finished the excoriation and then said calmly, “What do you do?”
Robinson blinked. He licked his lips and swallowed. “Mr. Rickey,” he puzzled, “do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?”
“I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!” Rickey exclaimed almost savagely. He paced across the floor again and returned. “You’ve got to do this job with base hits and stolen bases and fielding ground balls, Jackie. Nothing else!”
Read the full story at the Saturday Evening Post.
Find access to the archives of many periodicals through Alkek Library’s electronic databases.