It was only a month since Speedster Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals, galloping into first base, had spiked First Baseman Jackie Robinson. Jackie, the first avowed Negro in the history of big-league baseball, looked at his ripped stocking and bleeding leg. It might have been an accident, but Jackie didn't think so. Neither did a lot of others who saw the play. Jackie set his teeth, and said nothing. He didn't dare to.
Last week the Brooklyn Dodgers faced the Cards again, and this time the pennant and the Dodgers' none-too-healthy 4½-game leadwas at stake. The Cards, somewhat housebroken descendants of the rough-&-tumble Gashouse Gang, were lighting back, late and hard. In the second inning, Jackie Robinson was spiked again this time by trigger-tempered Catcher Joe Garagiola.
Next inning, at the plate, there was a face-to-face exchange of hot words between Robinson and Garagiolathe kind of rough passage that fans appreciatively call a "rhubarb." Umpire "Beans" Reardon hastily stepped between the two and broke it up. That was the end of it: no fisticuffs on the field, no rioting in the stands. But it was a sign, and an important one, that Jackie had established himself as a big leaguer. He had earned what comes free to every other player: the right to squawk.
That change of attitude showed, as nothing else could, the progress of Jackie Roosevelt* Robinson in the toughest first season any ballplayer has ever faced. He had made good as a major leaguer, and proved himself as a man. Last week The Sporting News, baseball's trade paper, crowned him the rookie of the year. The Sporting News explained, carefully and a little grandiloquently, that it had made the choice solely on the basis of "stark baseball values." Wrote Editor J. G. Taylor Spink:
"Robinson was rated and examined solely as a freshman player in the big leagues on the basis of his hitting, his running, his defensive play, his team value. The sociological experiment that Robinson represented, the trail-blazing he did, the barriers he broke down did not enter into the decision."
The "sociological experiment" may not have been foremost in Taylor Spink's mind, but it was never out of Jackie's. He, his teammates and the National League had broken baseball's 60-year color line. Only two years had passed since Rogers Hornsby declared, and baseball know-it-alls everywhere had nodded in assent: "Ballplayers on the road live close together ... it won't work."
Wobbling Rabbit. The man who had made it work is a well-muscled, pigeontoed, 28-year-old rookie from Pasadena, Calif., who, along with Glenn Davis and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, is one of the great all-round athletes of his day.