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Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson's Legacy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Recently I read the book iBaseball's Great Experiment by Jules Tygiel that recounted the story of the integration in Major League baseball. It was very interesting, and disturbing as well, as it brought me back to the 1940s in the United States when the "Jim Crow" laws prevailed, and the Negro was a second-class citizen. Through the book I was able to see the national pastime's deeply-rooted policy of segragation slowly, but surely, be abolished, and I witnessed the spectacular impact of the integration of baseball in this country.

The initial integration of baseball was a lengthy process that was planned out very carefully. That memorable event was the work of Mr. Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' president, and a young Negro named Jackie Robinson who was chosen to be the first to test the hostile waters that sought to drown him. It was obvious that if the experiment had proved unsuccessful it would have marked more than a personal failure. It would have ruined all chances for minorities to be admitted into Major League baseball at that time. The experiment, however, proved highly successful and Robinson was instantly a national hero among Negroes and many whites as well; coupled with his immediate success as a ball player, he soon earned the respect of most of his white teammates, sportswriters, and fans.

After Robinson's introduction, and the drafting of several other black players by the Dodger organization, the other teams started to follow suit. It would take years from the time the first non-white was signed in 1946 until 1959 when integration of all of the teams was completed. The Boston Red Sox hold the dubious honor of being the last team to give in to the integration movement. Their excuse for not fielding a black player earlier, as most of the other teams had done, was that there were very few minority players who could compete at the Major League level. This is not valid for there were many superb black ball players competing in the Negro Leagues who were passed over.

Reflecting upon Robinson's entrance into Major League baseball, I couldn't help but think how difficult and outright painful it must have been for him to pave the road for future black athletes. There was so much that he had to endure in order to make the experiment a success. By nature he was not the type of man who would back down, but in his role he had to. He was forced to tolerate injustices, abuse, and loneliness in order to pursue his personal aspirations and to make Mr. Rickey's endeavor a success and a benefit for all minorities. He suffered in order to make a smoother road for others who would follow.

Something that everyone should realize is that the introduction of a black athlete into Major League baseball was more than just sports news. Jackie's first few games received front-page headlines in national papers. It was the beginning of a breakthrough in society's acceptance of blacks as athletes. For an organization such as Major League baseball (long established as being all white) to adopt a policy of desegregation before blacks were recognized as anything more than second-class citizens in society is certainly praiseworthy. It is ironic that while Jackie was accepted as a ballplayer on the field and in the dugout, he was nearly always turned away at the hotels and restaurants that his white teammates used. Taken in the context of the time, baseball's Great Experiment appears all the more impressive, and it opened the door to success for many great black players of the past and present. I highly recommend it. n




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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