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Kate Dudding: Voices From the Past: April, 2008

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This is the seventh issue of Voices From the Past. My goal for each issue is to publish some highlights of one of my historical stories as well as an update on my activities. Please feel free to forward this e-newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.

Being on the Outside

Here’s a section of my story “Being on the Outside.” This story is about two men who were on the outside: Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball in the US; and Wendell Smith, an African American sportswriter who was not allowed in the press room at ball parks. Among many things that he did, Wendell Smith brought Jackie Robinson to the attention of Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Both Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith are members of The Baseball Hall of Fame.

Here’s a section in the middle of my story, explaining what happened after Jackie was hired to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers:

When Jackie Robinson entered the Dodgers clubhouse for the very first time, two team members shook his hand. Several others nodded. The rest ignored him. Maybe they welcomed all rookies that way…

In that first game, Jackie got on base in 1 of his 4 at bats, and subsequently scored. After the game, he said in an interview: “I know that I have a certain responsibility to my race, but I’ve got to try not to feel that way about it because it would be too much of a strain. I’ll do my best.”

Not surprisingly, Jackie only played OK ball initially, ignoring all the racial remarks yelled from the crowd and the other teams. In Philadelphia, the manager reportedly ordered his players to yell racial remarks at Jackie. Those remarks were so awful that FANS wrote to the commissioner of baseball who consequently warned the owner of the Phillies to control his manager or face punishment.

Jackie later recalled: “For on wild and rage-crazed minute I thought, ‘To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment. To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create. I would throw down my bat, stride over to the Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. What a glorious cleansing thing that would be. Then I could walk away from baseball.” But Jackie didn’t.

The statistics showed Jackie was getting hit more by pitches than anyone else in either league. That tapered off after May, perhaps when pitchers saw that it didn’t rattle Jackie.

However Jackie started rattling the pitchers every time he got on base, taking long leads, causing the pitcher to have to concentrate on him trying to steal a base, as well as on the next pitch. He started playing an aggressive, confident game – his way of fighting back, showing equal parts of speed and guts.

Even when he made a mistake, Jackie could turn it around. One day he took too long of a lead from second when the batter popped out just beyond the infield. Jackie was going to be tagged out, no matter what he did. But he put on quite a show, running back and forth between second and third. He had four opponents watching him, trying to tag him out. No one notice that during all this, the Dodger who HAD been on first base was now on second. Only then did Jackie allow himself to be tagged out. The next Dodger at bat hit a solid single to right field, and the Dodger on second scored, courtesy of Jackie Robinson.

Another time, Jackie was caught between third and home. For 40 seconds he kept 5 of his opponents busy trying to tag him out. Then there was a wild throw which got past the 3rd baseman and Jackie scored.

Jackie knew he was playing major league baseball. But he still wasn’t sure what his teammates thought of him.

This story is going to be on my second CD: People Who Made a Difference, Volume 1, which I've started recording. This CD should be available later this year.

Here is some more information about Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith.

News about me

I'm having fun working on two stories: the story of Henry Hudson's explorations, as told by his wife Katherine; and the story of Dorothy Fields, the third woman elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It's interesting working on the stories of two women who lived in two different centuries.

In May, I'm very pleased to be telling several different programs:

Thanks for reading this issue. I’ll be sending you some more story highlights in a few months.

 

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Copyright 2008 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.

 

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