Jackie Robinson’s debut 70 seasons ago took place on April 15…his regular season debut, anyway. Somewhat lost to history is that Robinson first took his position at Ebbets Field four days earlier, just a couple of hours after signing the contract that made him the first African-American player in history.
His appearance on Friday, April 11 drew a crowd of 24,237 fans, a crowd nearly as large as the one that watched the regular season opener. It also drew a massive amount of media attention including dozens of photographers who set up on the field and took a series of images including one that is among the highlights of RMY Auctions’ July Premier catalog.
Sonnee Gottlieb snapped this image, which was issued by International News and available to newspapers across the country. The 6 ½” x 8 ½” photo retains the lengthy original caption on the back, which calls Robinson the Dodgers’ “new Negro star player from Montreal.”
Also in the photo is Clyde Sukeforth, who had taken over as the Dodgers’ interim manager while Leo Durocher served a suspension, Howie Schultz, who helped Robinson learn to play first base knowing full well he would likely lose his job to the talented newcomer and Ed Stevens, another first baseman with a case of bad timing who was sent to the minors and later played pro basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers.
Interestingly, one can see several children in the stands behind the players in what was apparently a staged event.
Robinson went hitless that afternoon, but drove in three runs on a fielder’s choice and two sacrifice flies. Early the next week, his numbers would begin to count for good and a Hall of Fame career was underway.
The auction, which includes over 1,200 photos of all kinds, concludes Saturday at RMYAuctions.com.