Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Contract That Broke The Color Line

3 Jun

Jackie Robinson’s history making contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers is on display at the National Constitution Center until June 5.

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Jackie Robinson’s Contract on display at the National Constitution Center. Photo by Chris Murray

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they did so without taking the rights and freedoms of African-Americans into consideration.

The tumultuous journey of African-Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to the current cries of Black Lives Matter has been about making America live up to the lofty ideals of freedom and equality those documents imply.

When Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that contract became an influential document not only for sports fans, but also for the nation as a whole.

Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took notice. In a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Don Newcomb, King expressed his appreciation for Robinson’s willingness to lead the charge.

“You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,” King said.

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Robinson’s signature on this contract changed the face of sports and American back in 1947. Photo by Chris Murray.

From now until June 5, you can see the original contract that Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the National Constitution Center.

While there are a lot of important documents on display at the Constitution Center, the Robinson contract is equally as compelling as all the others. Robinson’s contract symbolized the first major confrontation with a segregated America and was part of the ongoing battle to make the country live up to it’s ideas of equality and justice.

Robinson’s entry into major league baseball was met with violent hostility both on and off the field. He was spiked by his opponents and jeered by hostile white fans who were offended by the mere presence of African-Americans in what was supposed to be the American game.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson had to take affronts to his personal dignity for a cause that went beyond the box score. Eight years later, ordinary African-Americans from students to janitors were peacefully sitting in at lunch counters, boycotting segregated public transportation and education facilities.

When you think about it, Robinson striking down baseball’s color barrier preceded President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to integrate the military, Brown versus Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, Birmingham movement, the March from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Dr. King described what Robinson went through:

“A pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that Robinson’s contract is hanging out here in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia didn’t live up to that name when it came to him. Robinson had to deal with racism and hatred, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates, and that’s on top of having to deal with a hostile Phillies squad led by manager Ben Chapman.

Black folks didn’t forget that hostility. An entire generation of African-American baseball fans refused to root for the Phillies even when they started signing Black players to the team and Black players, including free agency pioneer Curt Flood, didn’t want to play here either.

Recently, the Philadelphia City Council issued a resolution apologizing to Robinson and his family for the harsh treatment he received here as a baseball player.

So like the Constitution, Robinson’s contract is a piece of paper that symbolizes how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go in race relations in America.

The National Constitution Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students and youngsters 13-18, and $8 for children aged 4-12.

Thanks for the Memories: Phils Trade Jimmy Rollins to the LA Dodgers

12 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list  last June.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jimmy Rollins surpassed Mike Schmidt on the Phillies all-time hits list last June. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—We all knew that Jimmy Rollins inevitable departure from the Phillies was coming back in June when he became the club’s all-time hits leader and he suggested that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Phillies were truly committed to rebuilding during the press conference.

The Phillies traded Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night for minor league pitching prospects Zach Elfin and Tom Windle.

Rollins certainly left an indelible mark on the Phillies during his 15 years as a player and as a member of the community. He is among the team’s all-time leaders in hits, at-bats and doubles and as far as I’m concerned, Rollins is the best defensive shortstop in the team’s history and still one of the best in the National League.

But I think that Rollins’ greatest legacy to the Phillies is that he brought a swagger to the team that led eventually them to a World Series championship in 2008. That was something that I noticed about him even before 2007 when he said the Phillies were the team to beat.

When I first interviewed Rollins near the end of the 2004 season, he said it was his goal to see the Phillies become as a consistent a winner as the Atlanta Braves were during the 1990s.

Rollins was quite prophetic and he was one of the main reasons the Phillies owned the National League East from 2007-2011. During that time, the Phils won two National League pennants and a world championship.

At the start of the 2007 season, Rollins let it be known the Phillies and not the then defending division champion New York Mets. J-Roll got a lot of heat from the local and national media for making.

That season, Rollins put his money where his mouth was with an MVP season that helped lead the Phillies to the first of five straight division titles. Rollins batted .296, hit 30 home runs and drove in 94 runs. He set a major league record for plate appearances.

At just 5-foot-8, and 180 pounds, the switch-hitting Rollins had solid power from the leadoff position. He is one of six shortstops in baseball history to have 2,000 hits and four or more Gold Gloves. He is fourth on the major league career list in lead-off home runs with 46.

Last June, Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt said the 36-year-old Rollins is a strong candidate to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“I think if Jimmy retired at the end of the (2014) season. I think he’d get serious consideration Hall-of-Fame consideration right now,” Schmidt said back in June.

Rollins will certainly have the opportunity to add to his numbers with the Dodgers, who also acquired Howie Kendrick from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

During his time in Philadelphia, Rollins was definitely a fan favorite, especially among young African-American fans, whose older relatives had bad memories of the Phillies treatment of Jackie Robinson when he broke the color-line and when Dick Allen was a member of the team.

“That’s definitely a great thing and I’ve said it a number of times, you look around you don’t see many Black faces in the ballpark from back in the Veterans Stadium days,” Rollins said back in 2011. “Now you’re starting to see quite a bit more and it’s a good thing to bring that relationship and it’s important to this ball club to bring people together.”

But in the business of baseball, the Phillies are in rebuilding mode and are looking to develop younger ball players. Rollins, like most players of his age and experience, wants another chance to play for a winner and add to his legacy and that’s why he waived his no-trade clause.

One thing is for certain filling in Rollins shoes at shortstop will be a monumental task.