Introduction for Harvey Frommer’s RICKEY AND ROBINSON By Monte Irvin
I was almost thirty one years old when I joined the
New York Giants on July 5, 1949. Three days later against the Dodgers of
Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field, manager Leo Durocher called on me to
pinch hit against Joe Hatten.
Behind me was the history of more than a decade of Negro League
baseball, of being a five time All-Star. Nevertheless, as I got into the
batter’s box in Brooklyn, my knees started knocking and they wouldn’t
stop. I called time, stepped out, and stepped back in. I worked the
count to 3-2 and then walked. I was so excited, I ran all the way to
first base. It was a great feeling just to get there. That was how it
all started for me in the majors.
Whenever I came into contact with Jackie Robinson, we would talk. He had
his stories, and I had mine. It was not a time without incident. You’d
walk into a room and some people would walk out. You’d sit down on a
train, and one person, maybe two, maybe more would get up and walk away.
This was 1949 in the United States of America.
I am grateful for the accomplishments I did have in eight seasons with
the New York Giants helping them win two pennants, finishing among the
league leaders in many offensive categories in 1951 and 1953, getting
elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
But I regret that I did not get a chance to play major league baseball
earlier. What happened to me should have happened ten years before.
Still, had it not been for Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, who knows
if I would have ever gotten the chance. I say look at Josh Gibson. Look
at Buck Leonard ?all those fellows. Those guys were as good as any
players who ever lived. They never got a chance.
Rickey and Robinson tells the story of the man who did
get the first chance and the man who helped it happen. Together they
made it possible for so many others. It is an important story, and
nowhere is it told better than in this moving account written by one of
my favorite sports authors. That’s why I am so glad Rickey and
Robinson has now been reprinted. It is one of my favorite books by
one of my favorite sports authors. It should be required reading for all
those who want to know more about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey and
the breaking of baseball’s color line that long ago year of 1947.
This story appears in It Happened in Brooklyn,
the oral history I wrote along with my wife Myrna Katz Frommer:
WECHSLER: When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his
taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush down Snyder
Avenue when he pointed out a dark red brick house with a high porch.
think Jackie Robinson lives there,?he said. He parked across the
street, and we got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk, and looked at
Suddenly the front door opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt
stepped out. I didn’t believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a
summer morning. No one else was around. This man was not wearing the
baggy, ice-cream-white uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated
his blackness. He was dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a
regular house in a regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone
else, going for a newspaper and a bottle of milk.
Then incredibly, he crossed the street and came right towards me. Seeing
that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the shoulders and hips I
had seen so many times on the baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
“Hi Jackie, I’m one of your biggest fans,?I said
self-consciously. “Do you think the Dodgers are gonna win the pennant
His handsome face looked sternly down at me. “We’ll try our best,?he
“Good luck,?I said.
“Thanks.?He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands, and I
felt the strength and firmness of his grip.
I was a nervy kid, but I didn’t ask for an autograph or think to prolong
the conversation. I just watched as he walked away down the street.
At last the truth can be told. I am blowing my cover. That
kid, MAX WECHSLER, was me, Harvey Frommer, and it now seems to me that
morning moment on a street in East Flatbush was when the seeds for
Rickey and Robinson were first planted.
It is gratifying to see this book written more than twenty
years ago back in print. I have written many other books since then, but
Rickey and Robinson remains one of my favorites. Perhaps
it is because I was fortunate enough to interview such special people
for this work: Rachel Robinson, Roy Campanella, Mack Robinson, Irving
Rudd, Monte Irvin. Perhaps it is because this story is such a
significant piece of American sports history and culture. Perhaps it is
because it traces the lives of two very different people who came
together on common ground to shatter baseball’s age-old color line.