Editor’s note: This story, by correspondent Herbert Goren of the New York Sun, appeared in The Sporting News dated March 12, 1947, while Jackie Robinson was training in Cuba with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. The Dodgers moved their and the Royals’ spring training to Havana, TSN reported, “because of the segregation laws in FlorIda and other southern states.” (Warning: Outdated references to race my be offensive to some.)
HAVANA, Cuba — Jackie Robinson, calling Branch Rickey a sincere man, said that he believes his chances of making the grade with the Dodgers this season depend largely on how well he performs in spring training with Montreal, specifically, in the 11 exhibition games with Brooklyn.
“I do not resent still being with Montreal,” he said. “I can understand that a lot of people might feel my showing in my first year (with the Royals) was that of a flash in the pan.”
Mel Jones, general manager of Montreal, chipped in with the opinion that Robinson’s ability and exemplary sportsmanship on the field will put the Dodgers on his side once they see him. That’s Rickey’s slant and hope.
But a canvass of Dodger reaction heightens the task confronting Robinson. It is mainly antagonistic. Robinson will have to undo an undercurrent of resentment. Not all the Dodgers feel that way, but a great many do.
TSN Originals: How The Sporting News covered Jackie Robinson’s first spring training
One of them, a northerner, said: “I’m just hoping Arky Vaughan makes a wonderful comeback,” and it was not so much that Vaughan can be any more helpful than a Robinson at his best as the thought that Arky can keep Robinson from establishing a precedent which, in one man’s mind, is regarded with distaste.
“Why Bring It Up?” Asks One
A few Dodgers, however, held different ideas.
“Robinson’s a nice guy,” one said. “If he is able to help our club, I’m all for him.”
Another said: “I haven’t heard much on Robinson this spring one way or another. Why bring it up? Let’s see what he can do.”
Still another felt that Rickey was strong-willed and of high principle.
“I had heard where he is going to let us make the decision,” he said, “but I think that in the final analysis he will make it himself.”
Robinson, with two other Negro players on the Montreal squad, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, live in a musty, third-rate hotel in the heart of town. The place looks like a movie version of a water-front hostelry in Singapore.
Jackie’s modesty, however admirable, leaves his listener with the feeling that he confidently expects to make good this spring.
“If I don’t show well,” he says, “I’ll continue to play with Montreal and hope for the best.
“I’ll play where they want me to play,” Jackie said. “Last year, I was at second except for two games at third. I never played first, but I’ll try anything.”
If there is confidence in Robinson’s bearing, it stems from the recollection of his first spring showing with Montreal. It was not good. He couldn’t hit the curve. His arm had no zing. He was nervous and uncertain in the field. The Dodgers saw him and were unimpressed.
But he found himself with the bell. Some pitchers knocked him down, but Robinson says of that:
“I wasn’t knocked down nearly as often as a few other leading hitters. I expected it, because I was hitting well, I was new in the league and the pitchers didn’t want me to get a toehold.”
About his new salary, Robinson said he was disappointed. He signed his contract after Rickey had reminded him of the International League salary limit and impressed on him that he would receive fair chance to reach the Dodgers.
Robinson says he weighs 200 pounds and wants to lose six or seven.
The Dodgers will not play against Robinson until they reach Panama. They are scheduled for three games there with the Royals. Three more will be played on the return to Havana, and two more at Ebbets Field.
The decision on Robinson probably will not be made until those two exhibitions in Brooklyn are in the score books.
Jackie Getting $4,000
MONTREAL, Que. — It is reported here that Jackie Robinson, Negro infielder of the Montreal International League club, is dissatisfied with the salary figure in his 1947 Royal contract. Jackie, it is said, will receive $4,000 from Montreal, although this figure would be hiked if he moved up to the parent Brooklyn Dodgers.