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The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson's First Spring Training

Chris Lamb

Publication Year: 2004

In the spring of 1946, following the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, America found itself still struggling with the subtler but no less insidious tyrannies of racism and segregation at home. In the midst of it all, Jackie Robinson, a full year away from breaking major league baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was undergoing a harrowing dress rehearsal for integration—his first spring training as a minor league prospect with the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s AAA team. In Blackout, Chris Lamb tells what happened during these six weeks in segregated Florida—six weeks that would become a critical juncture for the national pastime and for an American society on the threshold of a civil rights revolution.

Blackout chronicles Robinson’s tremendous ordeal during that crucial spring training—how he struggled on the field and off. The restaurants and hotels that welcomed his white teammates were closed to him, and in one city after another he was prohibited from taking the field. Steeping his story in its complex cultural context, Lamb describes Robinson’s determination and anxiety, the reaction of the black and white communities to his appearance, and the unique and influential role of the press—mainstream reporting, the alternative black weeklies, and the Communist Daily Worker—in the integration of baseball. Told here in detail for the first time, this story brilliantly encapsulates the larger history of a man, a sport, and a nation on the verge of great and enduring change.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

I began working on this book during the late winter of 1993 when I was working as a columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Daytona Beach, Florida. Bill Schumann, a local radio newscaster, told me that Jackie Robinson played his first spring training in Daytona Beach. I had lived in Daytona Beach for a few years, and I thought I knew everything about baseball. Why did I not know about this story? I thought Schumann was merely passing on a sort of local legend, the kind that all towns and cities...

Part 1

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1. Fried Chicken and Hard-Boiled Eggs

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pp. 3-19

Jackie and Rachel Robinson arrived at Lockheed Terminal in Los Angeles in the early evening of Thursday, February 28, 1946, to board an American Airlines flight to Daytona Beach, Florida. Rachel wore a dyed three-quarter-length ermine coat that Jackie had given her for a wedding present not quite three weeks earlier, a matching...

Part 2

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2. Jim Crow Baseball Must End

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pp. 23-39

On February 5, 1933, the grand ballroom of New York City’s Commodore Hotel crackled with laughter during an evening of songs, skits, and speeches at the tenth annual New York Baseball Writers Association dinner. Sportswriters took turns spoofing everyone from the guest of honor, retired New...

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3. Rickey and Robinson Challenge Segregated Baseball

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pp. 41-57

In the early afternoon of Tuesday, October 23, 1945, Hector Racine, the president of the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ AAA team, informed reporters he would be making a big announcement at 5 p.m. at the team’s offices at Delormier Downs in Montreal. He said nothing else, leaving reporters wondering and rumors flying. The Montreal Star speculated that the city would get a Major...

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4. Robinson and Wright Take Their Game to Sanford

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pp. 59-78

On October 11, two weeks before Montreal announced it had signed Robinson, a black teenager named Jesse Payne was lynched in Madison, Florida. Payne had spent several weeks in custody at a state prison in Raiford near Tallahassee for allegedly attacking the five-year-old niece of a Florida sheriff,...

Part 3

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5. Robinson and Wright Flee Sanford by Sundown (includes photos)

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pp. 81-100

In the late morning of Monday, March 4, 1946, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Wright, Wendell Smith, and Billy Rowe arrived at the Sanford training camp at Memorial Athletic Field. Robinson and Wright, standing in their street clothes, paused and looked out over the practice field, where Montreal and...

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6. Robinson Takes the Field

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pp. 101-116

On Sunday morning, March 17, Jackie Robinson was penciled into the Montreal starting lineup for an afternoon game against Brooklyn at City Island Ballpark in downtown Daytona Beach. Writing in the Brooklyn Eagle Harold Burr declared that “Tradition will be shattered when Robinson starts...

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7. Cheap Talk, Mexican Millionaires, and Eddie Klep

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pp. 117-131

In the March 19, 1946, issue of Look magazine, Tim Cohane wrote a feature on the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey that portrayed him as a complex figure: literate to the point of scholarly, smart to the point of genius, religious to the point of pious, and tight to the point of miserly. Now, according to Cohane, the longtime baseball man had become “baseball’s...

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8. Lights Out in Deland and Locked Gates in Jacksonville

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pp. 133-148

Throughout his athletic career what set Jackie Robinson apart from others was his speed. He had always been faster than anyone else. He demonstrated this time and time again on football fields and in track meets. In baseball, however, one cannot...

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9. Integration Stands Its Ground against Southern Intolerance

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pp. 149-166

Throughout his athletic career what set Jackie Robinson apart from others was his speed. He had always been faster than anyone else. He demonstrated this time and time again on football fields and in track meets. In baseball, however, one cannot outrun a curve ball or hope to field a ground ball and run...

Part 4

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10. Robinson Wins the Day during His First Game at Montreal

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pp. 169-184

On April 18, the sun shone brilliantly at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey, for the opening day of the 1946 International League season. Mayor Frank Hague required city workers to buy tickets to the game and canceled...


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pp. 185-207


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pp. 209-216


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204317
E-ISBN-10: 0803204310

Page Count: 233
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 57447368
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Blackout

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Subject Headings

  • Discrimination in sports -- United States.
  • Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.
  • Baseball players -- United States -- Biography.
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