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How New York and national media covered Jackie Robinson’s 1947 MLB debut

Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players, from left, John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, in New York. (AP)
Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players, from left, John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, in New York. (AP)
Associated Press

Thursday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

How some media covered Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. The stories are retransmitted with no editing from their original versions.

Note racial language contained in these original 1947 reports

♦  ♦  ♦

BROOKLYN – Pete Reiser, key to Brooklyn’s flag chances, blazed a seventh-inning double off the screen a foot inside the right-field foul line at Ebbets Field today to drive across the tying and winning runs as the pilotless Dodgers opened their 1947 campaign with a 5-to-3 victory over the Boston Braves.

Although he did not get a hit in four official times at bat, Jackie Robinson, first Negro to play in modern big league ball, signalized his official debut as a Dodger by sprinting home with the deciding run on Reiser’s smash and playing perfect ball at first base.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Gayle Talbot

The Associated Press

BROOKLYN – If Jackie Robinson felt his nerves jumping or was even conscious that he was about to take part in a momentous baseball event, he kept his feeling remarkably well concealed.

Jackie, the first negro to play in a modern big league game, stood around and chatted easily with all comers as his club, the Dodgers, and the opposing Boston Braves took turns warming up for yesterday’s opener. He grinned wide when asked if he felt any “butterflies” in his stomach.

“Not a one,” he demurred. “I wish I could say I did, because then maybe I’d have an alibi if I don’t do so good. But I won’t be able to use that as an alibi.”

The former U.C.L.A. star sounded as though he meant it very much – that he wanted more than anything else to stand or fail on his own merits as a player, right from the start. He was asked if he had detected any difference thus far between big league play and the minor league variety.

“Plenty,” he said without hesitation, “up here,” he tapped his temple a couple of times. “There’s a big difference, believe me. They’re thinking all the time on this team.”

How did he like playing first-base, a position totally strange to him up to a few weeks ago?

“Fine, fine,” the 28-year-old negro insisted. “I’ve still got an awful lot to learn about it, but I’m glad to play anywhere they want me to. First isn’t as easy, though, as some people think it is.

“What I need more than anything right now,” he went on, abruptly changing the subject, “Is an apartment. I’d like to get one over here in Brooklyn if I can. I’ve got my wife and baby boy in a hotel in New York, and when the boy cries at night all we can do is get up and walk with him. That isn’t good.”

It was obvious in the opener that Brooklyn fans mean to do everything possible to make their first negro player feel welcome. Every time he came to bat yesterday he was warmly applauded by the stands as a whole, and when he reached in the boxes to make a nice catch of a foul he was similarly awarded.

♦  ♦  ♦

International News Service

NEW YORK – For the first time in baseball history a Negro played in a major league game today.

The Negro was Jackie Robinson, first-baseman of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped his team defeat the Boston Braves 5 to 3.

The Dodgers, minus their manager, Leo Durocher, staged a three-run rally in the seventh to give Hal Gregg the decision over Johnny Sain.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Roscoe McGowen

The New York Times

Even without Skipper Leo Durocher, the good ship “Dodger” proved yesterday that it could sail safely into port, although slightly storm-battered in the process.

Managed by Clyde Sukeforth, skipper pro tem, who sent eighteen of his crew into action, the Brooks docked just ahead of the Boston Braves and are sharing the National League lead today – if it never happens again.

Flatbush fans, 26,623 of them, who watched their favorite team rally to win, 5-3, had no problem about dividing their cheers. All of them went to an old hero, Pistol Pete Reiser, who has heard that roar of acclaim so many times.

(Robinson mentioned only in play-by-play in sixth and 16th paragraphs)

♦  ♦  ♦

By Arthur Daley

The New York Times – (second half of his column)

The debut of Jackie Robinson was quite uneventful, even though he had the unenviable distinction of snuffing out a rally by hitting into a remarkable double play. His dribbler through the box in the fifth should have gone for a safety, but Dick Culler, playing in on the grass, made a diving stop, threw to second for a force while prostrate on the ground, and Connie Ryan nailed the fleet Robbie at first for a dazzling twin killing.

The muscular Negro minds his own business and shrewdly makes no effort to push himself. He speaks quietly and intelligently when spoken to and already has made a strong impression. “I was nervous in the first play of my first game at Ebbets Field,” he said with his ready grin, “but nothing has bothered me since.”

A veteran Dodger said of him, “Having Jackie on the team is still a little strange, just like anything else that’s new. We just don’t know how to act with him. But he’ll be accepted in time. You can be sure of that. Other sports have had Negroes. Why not baseball? I’m for him, if he can win games. That’s the only test I ask.” And that seems to be the general opinion.

Robinson’s tremendous speed afoot did accomplish one thing, since it set up the winning run which he personally carried home. His deft sacrifice bunt was so well placed that Earl Torgeson had to make a hurried throw to Ryan at the bag. And his shot caromed off a Robinson shoulder blade into right field to give both runners an extra base. Then Pete Reiser doubled them both home.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Bob Cooke

New York Herald Tribune

The Brooklyn Dodgers, still without a permanent leader, found an adequate one for their opener yesterday when they grouped themselves behind Pete Reiser, their winged-footed outfielder, who encircled the Boston Braves with as much ease as he did the bases.

Reiser scored three runs and drove in two more as Brooklyn staged a snappy world premiere with the kind cooperation of the Bostonians. The score was 5 to 3, and it was Reiser who added up the totals.

A solemn crowd of 26,623 customers looked on, none of whom could be accused of relationship to the normal Ebbets Field fan who is frequently guilty of conduct unbecoming to the other boroughs. Both teams were politely cheered when the lineups were announced and John Cashmore, Brooklyn Borough President, was given a timid reception when he threw out the first ball.

The game was played in an atmosphere of stillness interrupted only by the patter of Reiser’s feet.

A number of observers had been attracted by the presence of Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn’s Negro first baseman, but as the innings passed it was all any one could do to keep their eyes on Reiser.

(10th paragraph)

Robinson fielded his position admirably, but was held hitless in three attempts. He rapped into a double play in the fifth with runners on first and third.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Dick Young

New York Daily News

It has been said quite often of Pete Reiser, and by no less a person than Branch Rickey, that the kid is somewhat of a “hypo,” meaning hypochondriac. Maybe so, but to the Brooks he’s a hypo, meaning stimulant, and he wasted no time proving it again this season by breaking the Brooks on top of the NL pack with a masterful one-man show in yesterday’s 5-3 opening-day victory over the Braves.

(last paragraph)

In his debut, Jackie Robinson, the majors’ most-discussed rookie, fielded flawlessly at first base but went hitless in three official trips to the plate. He rolled out to third in the first, lofted a soft fly to left in the third, rifled a hot double-play grounder to short to close out the fifth, and then scored the winning tally on Reiser’s seventh-inning double, after reaching on a sacrifice-error by the Braves’ rookie counterpart – Earl Torgeson.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Michael Gavan

New York Journal-American

The name of the new Brooklyn manager was of comparatively small interest in Flatbush today. Just as long as Pete Reiser can hit the ball and scamper around the bases as he did in the opening game what difference does it make who battles the umpires!

Potentially, the best ball player in the business, Pistol Pete could even mean a pennant if he could escape injury and play every day. He’s that good. Fitting example of a healthy Reiser’s unestimable value was provided in the glorious inaugural triumph over the Braves.

(Robinson not mentioned in story)

♦  ♦  ♦

By Bill Roder

New York World-Telegram

EBBETS FIELD – Minus last year’s manager and coaches, the Dodgers opened the season here today in the first of three games against the Boston Braves, with Clyde Sukeforth as pro tem pilot.

The Dodgers won, 5-3.

Before a near sellout throng of 31,000 lefty Joe Hatten pitched against 20-game winner Johnny Sain.

Jackie Robinson, first Negro to play in the majors, was on first base for the Dodgers and a newcomer of less than 24 hours, Johnny Jorgenson, was on third base. Jorgenson was purchased last night from the farm in Montreal.

♦  ♦  ♦

By Bill Roeder

New York World-Telegram – (The following day)

Have the Dodgers gone sane? That’s what Brooklyn fans were asking one another today as they praised Clyde (Pro Tem) Sukeforth’s first managerial performance and reviewed it comparatively, play by play, in terms of what Leo Durocher would have done.

Some of the fans thought they detected a rare element of cautious baseball in Sukeforth’s 5-3 opening day victory over the Braves. Are the fans right or wrong? The answer: yes and no. …

(8th paragraph)

… Howard Schultz replaced Jackie Robinson at first base in the ninth inning.

Sukeforth said he ran Tom Taum for Dixie Walker in the sixth inning, when the Dodgers were behind, because speed was required as a precaution against the double play. “We have so many good players on our team that I could afford to make a move like that,” Sukey explained.

Reiser, whose two hits, three runs scored and two driven in represented Brooklyn’s effective offense in toto, had a reassuring word for Robinson, who went hitless his first game in the big leagues. “He’ll be all right,” Pete volunteered. “He’ll steady down and he’ll be fine.” Sukeforth had the same to say about the other rookie, Johnny Jorgenson, the overnight regular at third base.

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