28 August, 2012

28 August 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 513 % Postmaster, N.Y.
28 August, 1945
My darling fiancée –

When in the world am I going to be able to say ‘wife’? I know one thing. I’ll surely appreciate it when I can. I don’t suppose I’ve ever really been very effusive about my love for you, darling – I mean compared to the way some fellows tell their sweethearts, but honestly, darling, I love you with all the depth and sincerity I know how. I’ve done the best I’ve been able to in its expression by mail. I’m certain I can express it more adequately when I’m once again with you, dear. Then again – maybe I won’t be capable of saying the right words. Well – I can always rely on actions – and sweetheart – if it’s consistency, devotion, attention and admiration that you want – why I think you’ll be happy.

I’ve often wondered, just as perhaps you have, about the fact that we didn’t know each other for very long before we left – that there was so much we didn’t know about each other’s habits, that maybe we wouldn’t click when we were together again. Those are natural reflections for thinking people – and I couldn’t help thinking about such things, – nor you. Your mention of Zelda and her unhappiness, the lack of something substantial to keep them together – brought all this to mind. I don’t know the sources of their trouble – incompatibility, insincerity, unfaithful – whatever it was – they apparently didn’t have a bond strong enough to keep them from separating. I don’t pretend to believe that our marriage will be the most perfect one ever – that would be too much to hope for and if you think you’re going to have that type and don’t quite reach it – the disappointment will offset all the beautiful things you do have. But darling – I think we’re going to be very very happy and I think we’re going to be very successful in our marriage. How many couples know each other or knew each other as little as we did and yet managed to keep their tenuous bond and strengthen it into a strong chain? Not many, I’ll venture to say. To start from so little and end up with a tie that finds me thinking of everything only in terms of you, dear, that finds me translating every deed into terms of how you’d like it or respond to it – well, I just know we’ve got something to lean on darling – and I’m happy. Just let me get back and I’ll tell you about it.

I received two letters from you yesterday – comparatively old – but I enjoyed them. One gave your reactions on VJ day and a description of the crowds etc in Boston. I’d have loved to have been there. You know by now that we just didn’t get the same lift back here. But we’ll go all through that again when I get back – and really now – each day does bring us closer and closer together. Frankly –– I can hardly wait.

And now I’ve got to ‘knock off’ as they say here and do a bit of work. We’re just marking time here waiting for something to break. No new rumors today, darling – but I’ll keep you posted.

All for now – dear – love to the folks – and
All my everlasting love –


about Jackie Robinson and the Baseball Color Barrier

Jackie Robinson, soldier

Jackie Robinson gained national recognition in 1941 when he became the first athlete in the history of UCLA to earn a letter in four different sports in the same year (football, basketball, track and baseball). Drafted into the Army, he was discharged in 1945 and joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Negro League. While playing in Chicago with the team, Jackie was approached by a White scout, Clyde Sukeforth, who told him that Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey would like to meet with him.

Jackie with the Kansas City Monarchs

Jackie arrived in Brooklyn, New York on 28 August 1945, for a very important meeting in Branch Rickey's office.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey (in 1950)

When Robinson traveled to New York City for the meeting he was unaware that he was going to be asked to become the first Black player in major league baseball. The decision to open up "America's favorite pastime" to African-Americans was in no small part due to the contribution they had made to the country's war effort. Happy Chandler, the newly installed Baseball Commissioner, was quoted as saying that: "if they (African-Americans) can fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal (and) in the South Pacific, they can play ball in America." Branch Rickey agreed, but everyone knew that the first Black to break through the color barrier would not only have to be talented enough to play in the majors but strong enough to withstand with dignity the inevitable racial taunts that would be hurled his way. Jackie Robinson was their man. Jackie believed that black people should be treated fairly. He also knew that he would be judged for how he behaved when faced with confrontation. If he lost control of his behavior, he could possibly hurt the chances of other players wishing to join the majors.

The meeting in Rickey's office lasted about three hours. Rickey grilled the 26 year old Robinson on his resolve and challenged him with racist scenarios that he may have to confront on and off the field. Satisfied with his response, Rickey assigned Robinson to the Montreal Royals - a Dodger farm team - for the 1946 season.

Jackie playing with the Montreal Royals

Robinson was moved up to the Dodgers at the beginning of the 1947 season.

Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers

From an article called "Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball's Color Barrier, 1945," on the web site of EyeWitness to History, comes this account of that meeting.
The account begins as Jackie enters Branch Rickey's office. The Dodger boss sits in a leather swivel chair behind a mammoth walnut desk. After some small talk, Rickey lights up a cigar and gets down to the heart of the interview:
'Are you under contract to the Kansas City Monarchs?'

'No, sir,' Robinson replied quickly. 'We don't have contracts.'

'Do you have any agreements - written or oral - about how long you will play for them?'

'No, sir, none at all. I just work from payday to payday.'

Rickey nodded and his bushy brows mashed into a scowl. He toyed with the ever-present cigar, seeking the right words, 'Do you know why you were brought here?'

'Not exactly. I heard something about a colored team at Ebbets Field. That it?'

'No . . . that isn't it.' Rickey studied the dark face, the half-open mouth, the widened and worried eyes. Then he said, 'You were brought here, Jackie, to play for the Brooklyn organization. Perhaps on Montreal to start with -'

'Me? Play for Montreal?' the player gasped.

Rickey nodded. 'If you can make it, yes. Later on - also if you can make it - you'll have a chance with the Brooklyn Dodgers.' Robinson could only nod at this point.

'I want to win pennants and we need ballplayers!' Rickey whacked the desk. He sketched the efforts and the scope of his two-year search for players of promise.'Do you think you can do it? Make good in organized baseball?'

Robinson shifted to relieve his mounting tension.

'If . . . if I got the chance,' he stammered.

'There's more here than just playing, Jackie,' Rickey warned. 'I wish it meant only hits, runs and errors - things you can see in a box score. . . .'

'Can you do it? Can you do it?' Rickey asked over and over.

Shifting nervously, Robinson looked from Rickey to Sukeforth as they talked of his arms and legs and swing and courage. Did he have the guts to play the game no matter what happened? Rickey pointed out the enormity of the responsibility for all concerned: owners of the club, Rickey, Robinson and all baseball. The opposition would shout insults, come in spikes first, throw at his head.

'Mr. Rickey,' Robinson said, 'they've been throwing at my head for a long time.'

Rickey's voice rose. 'Suppose I'm a player. . . in the heat of an important ball game.' He drew back as if to charge at Robinson. 'Suppose I collide with you at second base. When I get up, I yell, 'You dirty, black son of a -' 'He finished the castigation and added calmly, 'What do you do?'

Robinson blinked. He licked his lips and swallowed.

'Mr. Rickey,' he murmured, 'do you want a ballplayer who's afraid to fight back?'

'I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!' Rickey exclaimed almost savagely. He paced across the floor and returned with finger pointing. 'You've got to do this job with base hits and stolen bases and fielding ground balls, Jackie. Nothing else!'

He moved behind his big desk again and faced the cornered Robinson. He posed as a cynical clerk in a southern hotel who not only refused him a room, but cursed him as he did so. What would Robinson do? He posed as a prejudiced sportswriter, ordered to turn in a twisted story, full of bias and racial animosity. How would Robinson answer the sportswriter? He ordered the player from imaginary dining rooms. He jostled him in imaginary hotel lobbies, railroad stations. What would Robinson do?

'Now I'm playing against you in a World Series!" Rickey stormed and removed his jacket for greater freedom. Robinson's hands clenched, trembled from the rising tension. "I'm a hotheaded player. I want to win that game, so I go into you spikes first, but you don't give ground. You stand there and you jab the ball into my ribs and the umpire yells, 'Out!' I flare up - all I see is your face-that black face right on top of me -'

Rickey's bespectacled face, glistening with sweat, was inches from Robinson's at this point. He yelled into the motionless mask, 'So I haul off and punch you right in the cheek!'

An oversized fist swung through the air and barely missed Robinson's face. He blinked, but his head didn't move.

'What do you do?' Rickey roared.

'Mr. Rickey,' he whispered, 'I've got two cheeks. That it?'
Jackie led the Dodgers to six National titles and one World Series Championship and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1949.

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Robinson's older brother, Matthew Robinson, inspired Jackie to pursue his talent and love for athletics. Matthew won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash — just behind Jesse Owens — at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

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