• So-Called Integration of Major League Baseball Was an Insult

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    The remarks are in author Mark Ribowsky’s book “A Complete History of the Negro Leagues.” In it, Rickey presumes to tell black Americans how to act – and react – to Robinson’s integration of MLB.

    “Rickey went to great lengths to admonish the black community against getting too carried away,” Ribowsky wrote. “Rickey implored them not to make Robinson into a political cause célèbre, not to stage ‘parades and welcoming committees’ or to hold ‘Jackie Robinson days.’

    “To pound home the point,” Ribowsky continued, “baseball’s self-styled Great Emancipator was blunt, some might have said offensive. ‘You’ll get drunk. You’ll fight. You’ll get arrested,’ Rickey lectured his audience of well-heeled blacks, part of the growing black bourgeoisie. ‘You’ll whine and dine the player until he’s fat and futile. You’ll symbolize his importance into a national comedy and an ultimate tragedy.’”

    This drivel – which WASN’T heard in the movie “42,” by the way – deserved an “Oh no this white man didn’t!” reaction of black folks in 1947, but it was not forthcoming. I guess our people were so glad that just one of us integrated MLB that we were ready to take just about any insult.

    And what was with this business of integrating only one, lone black person into MLB? Were Rickey serious about integrating, the man would have INTEGRATED.

    That would have meant choosing at least two black Negro League players, not just one, at least so that Robinson wouldn’t have had to take that heat alone.

    And the Negro Leagues didn’t just have black players. There were black umpires. There were black coaches and managers.

    Negro League teams had black front office personnel. The teams had black OWNERS, for heaven’s sake.

    Were Rickey more worried about genuine integration and less worried about his legacy as the Abe Lincoln of baseball, he’d have brought that second black player to the Dodgers along with Robinson. He could have added some black front office personnel as well.

    Black players did indeed follow Robinson into MLB. Black umpires, coaches, managers, front office personnel and owners didn’t make the same trip. They weren’t welcome.

    Within a few short years after 1947, the viable black baseball clubs of the old Negro Leagues had been integrated out of existence.

    That might have been the greatest insult of all.

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