There was a time, and not so long ago, when you could ask a major league player about Jackie Robinson and shrug it off in return. league His number retired in 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of his first appearance, in the presence of President Clinton. It led to a beautiful celebration, but it wasn’t even 2007 on Jackie Robinson Day really rooted.
That was when Ken Grevey Jr. called Bud Selig, then the commissioner of Major League Baseball. To this day, Selig is still amazed at what Griffey told him.
“A lot of men – and I quote him directly – I don’t know who Jackie Robinson is,” Selig told me that day.
Griffey asked if he could wear the retired number 42 on Jackie Robinson’s day. In two years, every player did, and the anniversary serves a dual purpose: a regular checkpoint in baseball’s quest to regain supremacy in the black community, and Robinson’s celebration of breaking the color barrier.
“I think it’s the most important and powerful moment in baseball history,” Selig said.
This is what makes the opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum so important. By the 75th anniversary of his debut, MLB had done a commendable job of restoring and sharing Robinson’s legacy as a baseball player.
The museum also tells the story of Robinson’s incredible life off the field. Step into the museum, and the first room you see isn’t a room that celebrates his athletic achievements.
“It was completely intentional,” said Della Britton, president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“Even if you thought about seeing baseball’s story and learning more about it, you have to walk into that room talking about his commitment to economic opportunity, civil rights, and social justice.”
Robinson’s life missions are displayed in large capital letters in that room: soldier, carrier, public servant, activist, fundraising, entrepreneur, lawyer, entrepreneur, citizen, and more.
There are displays of “by the numbers” you might expect at a museum about a sports star, but “3” is the number of presidential candidates he’s campaigned, “4” is the number of presidents he’s texted with about racial injustice, and “6” is the number of years he’s been open His department store in Harlem, and “1949” is the year he was Testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Of all the artifacts on display, Breton said she’s probably the most proud to share Robinson’s testimony Before that committee, with his handwritten notes along with his typewriter speech.
She said the white media covered the perceived feud between Robinson and Paul Robson, the prominent black actor and singer who allegedly said that black Americans should not go to war against the Soviet Union when the communists there treated blacks with dignity. Robinson called the alleged comments “ridiculous”.
But the museum also features coverage of the testimony in black media, which has instead focused on Robinson’s core message: “The fact that he’s a communist condemning injustice in the courts, police brutality, and extrajudicial killings when it occurs does not alter the truth of his accusations. … Negroes have been stirred up.” Long before there was a Communist Party, and they will remain fervent long after the Party is gone unless Jim Crow is gone by then too.”
To the congressman who had asked Robinson that day to be patient, Robinson asked if the blacks had not been patient long enough. To this point, the museum highlights a 1950 letter to Robinson from Branch Rickey, the Dodgers CEO who celebrated his autograph.
Robinson has expressed an interest in management. “I hope the day will come soon when it is absolutely possible, because it is absolutely right, to be considered,” Ricky wrote. In 1972, Robinson died, without ever seeing any black man run the major tournaments.
The museum is open to the public on Mondays. The Robinsons got a private tour last Wednesday, before the Dodgers played the New York Mets.
“Jackie’s passion was for civil rights and equality, and more than a passion for baseball,” said Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager. “It was more than baseball was just a way to use his voice, which is great to see and it’s actually very inspiring.”
This is the museum’s ultimate mission – not only to share how Robinson made a difference, but to encourage you to do the same.
In one area of the museum, visitors can choose one of Robinson’s causes—fair housing, equal pay, police brutality, school integration, job creation, or advocate for drug policy—and see what he did to advance the cause and what someone might do to advance. Same reason today. Robinson, for example, helped launch Freedom National Bank, which provided jobs, loans, and mortgages to the Harlem community.
Elsewhere, visitors can see and hear testimonies from notable Americans about how Robinson impacted their lives — from some athletes, yes, but also from the likes of former President George W. General Eric H. Holder Jr
The museum is very interactive, as your visit determines your interests. That made for a fun morning for my 12-year-old daughter, Arya, who doesn’t like baseball very much and told me she considers most museums places to “walk around and look at things while your parents are panting and pointing things out.”
At this museum, she said, “I learned so much more than I thought I would without even realizing it, because it was so much fun.”
If your interests are limited to baseball, there’s plenty to enjoy here, including a scale model of Ebbets Field, with famous Brooklyn broadcaster Red Barber calling the action. (Briton Finn Scully said who said A classic story about ice skating with Robinsonhas been cited in the museum as well.)
But the museum stands somewhat as an inspiring and respectful tribute to a man Dodger Stadium Statue Robinson’s quote presents this: “Life is not important except in its effect on the lives of others.”
Times staff writer Jack Harris contributed to this report.