February is Black History Month, and when it comes to sports, it is hard to argue that the most important athlete in black history is Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Robinson went on to a Hall of Fame career, and his number 42 has been retired league-wide. Today, on April 15, every Major League player wears Robinson’s number 42.
Joe: Fans, as my company on this program for tonight, one of the all-time greats of modern day baseball I would say, that great infielder of the Brooklyn Dodgers — we like to remember him as the former infielder with the Montreal Royals in our league: none other than Jackie Robinson. Jack, how’re you doing?
Jackie: Joe, I’m doing very well, and I certainly appreciate being up here in Canada. I’ve always wanted to come back because of the wonderful relationship I’ve had with all the people. So, being here again makes me feel awfully good.
Joe: Those weren’t easy days when you first came up here with Montreal. You and Campy (Roy Campanella). Were they when you actually look at it?
Jackie: Well, Campy wasn’t with me then, Joe.
Joe: Well, who was with you in the club?
Jackie: A fellow by the name of (Johnny) Wright was with us for a while, and then (Roy) Partlow was with us, but Campy was with Walter Alston up in Nashua (Dodgers) that year, I believe.
Joe: Oh, he came up the following year?
Jackie: He came up the following year, that’s correct.
Joe: Oh, I see.
Jackie: It wasn’t as hard as a lot of people would have liked for it to have been, Joe. I think it was made easy because, first of all, Mr. (Branch) Rickey had the foresight enough to send me to a place like Canada; Montreal, and the people here were so wonderful that on that first time I walked out on to the field, I knew right off the bat that I had nothing to worry about in that respect. So, all that was expected of me was that I was to catch a ball, hit a ball, and do the job as best I possibly could. And that’s all that I could ask of them.
Joe: Jackie, without taking anything away from the United States, baseball is the great American pastime, but I, always, ever since you broke in to organized baseball, I always like to think of Canada as a place that the Americans had to revert to, to prove a point!
Jackie: Joe, you know, there’s only one regret that I’ve had in all of the years that I’ve been here in baseball; I haven’t been able to say publicly the things that I felt about the people in Montreal and about the reception I’ve had. At least, I haven’t been able to tell as many people as I’d have liked to have told. I don’t think anyone would disagree if I said that had it not been that there was a Montreal, Mr. Rickey would have perhaps been a little afraid to try the “experiment,” as they called it. So actually, Montreal (and) Canada can certainly take a tremendous amount of credit for the success of the integration of the Negro into baseball.
Joe: Not only that, it wasn’t only the fans actually, but I happen to know with my close association to the game that some of the players — let’s say, had to be converted!
Jackie: Well, there were a few, but the way that I look at it is this: that a ball player can not go out on the field and begrudge anybody. He’s got to go out and do the best job that he possibly can, because he’s not playing for me, he’s not playing for the manager, but he’s playing for himself and his family. And if he has a particular grudge against any particular person that’s going to take away from the effectiveness of himself as a player, therefore, he’s got to concentrate to do the very best job that he possibly can. But, whereas a fan can go out and root, and do the things that he pleases out there, (and) no one will say anything. So, I give a tremendous amount of credit to the baseball players that we had in Montreal; to the fellows that played in the International League, but I believe, and I have to give most of the credit to the fans for being such wonderful sports.
Joe: Jackie, I take it that your second biggest thrill in professional baseball was that last World Series?
Jackie: Nooo, I’ll have to say that was my biggest!
Joe: Oh, is that right? I thought that perhaps your breaking down this barrier and setting the way for so many careers, such as you did, would be the greatest thing, because it was one of the greatest things that could happen to anybody!
Jackie: Well, I’ll always remember it, there’s no doubt about it, but for sheer thrills, I can’t find anything that will top that (1955) World Series victory. It was something that I’ll never forget, and matter of fact, I’m still flying around in the clouds from it.
Joe: How about next year?
Jackie: Oh, I’m looking forward to it. I like the challenge of a coming season, and I like the challenge of a person that’s supposed to have a job that I would like to have. And, the competition I’ll have in trying to win the third base job, or whatever position on the team is something I’m looking forward to.
Joe: Who would you like to play in the World Series next year?
Jackie: We’d naturally like to play the club with the biggest ball park, either the Cleveland Indians or the New York Yankees again. But what we look for first of all is to try and win in our League, and we know that that’s not going to be an easy job.
Joe: Jackie, I want to thank you very much. Believe me, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. It’s taken a long time since those Montreal days, but you’ve carried your end of the load, and we hope it’s going to continue on, and as for those playing days, managerial, and right on up to the top in baseball again.
Jackie: Joe, it’s been my pleasure, and the only thing that I can say is that it’s been a lot longer for me than it has been for you and the people here in Canada. I can assure you, I’ve wanted to come back many times.
Joe: Well, you’re always welcome Jackie, it’s been great having you. Thank you!
Fans, there you have my company for tonight, one of the outstanding stars in professional baseball—modern day version — the infielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson.