Roger Angell on Jackie Robinson

Writing in the New Yorker, Roger Angell, now 92 years young, recalls an incident at a game in mid-July 1948. Robinson, in his sophomore season with the Dodgers, started to lose his composure standing on third at the Polo Grounds, home of the rival Giants:

Robinson, a Dodger base runner, had reached third and was standing on the bag, not far from me, when he suddenly came apart. I don’t know what happened, what brought it on, but it must have been something ugly and far too familiar to him, another racial taunt—I didn’t hear it—that reached him from the stands and this time struck home.

I didn’t quite hear Jackie, either, but his head was down and a stream of sound and profanity poured out of him. His head was down and his shoulders were barely holding in something more. The game stopped. The Dodgers’ third-base coach came over, and then the Giants’ third baseman—it must have been Sid Gordon—who talked to him quietly and consolingly. The third-base umpire walked in at last to join them, and put one hand on Robinson’s arm. The stands fell silent—what’s going on?—but the moment passed too quickly to require any kind of an explanation. The men parted, and Jackie took his lead off third while the Giants pitcher looked in for his sign. The game went on.

The essay from the “poet laureate of baseball” is short but effective, conveying to readers something of the agony Robinson felt during those first few years of his in a Brooklyn uniform.

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