Jackie Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947 brought unprecedented attention to baseball as a vehicle for social change. Coverage of athletics sometimes transcended the sports pages, but Robinson’s debut made news around the world.
While resistance among some fellow players and fans made life difficult for Robinson and some of those who followed, his arrival was celebrated in editorial pages and in cities where racial progress had been evident.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a 5×7 posed black and white image of Robinson, taken during that time and dated the day after his arrival in the majors. What sets the photo apart from the hundreds of others that appeared in newspapers 69 years ago are the photographer and the content of the caption.
Arthur Sasse was a well-known UPI photographer perhaps best known for his classic picture of a playful Albert Einstein, sticking his tongue out during a birthday event. It’s believed Sasse is responsible for the Robinson image, which was part of a two-piece set where credit was shared by Sasse and Hugh Broderick.
The back of the photo is dated April 16, the day after Robinson’s debut at Ebbets Field. It includes the caption, attached to the back by the wire service. Instead of the standard ‘who, what, when, where and why’ often found on news images, the lengthy text reads like a commentary on what was clearly seen as a monumental moment for baseball and for American society. It’s certainly possible the photo was used for newspaper editorials. In closes with the following text:
“He was the instrument through which the American’s love of fair play and hatred of prejudice were used to smash down a barrier than never should have been erected.”
Robinson is shown wearing his unique looking first baseman’s mitt while gripping a baseball. Auction officials say it’s the first time a copy of this particular image has been offered at auction.
It’s one of over 1,500 in RMY’s August Premier Auction, set to close Friday night.