On Dec. 13, 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers traded Jackie Robinson to the hated New York Giants for left-handed journeyman pitcher Dick Littlefield.
The only problem was that neither team knew that Robinson had decided to retire from baseball.
Jackie Robinson's Letter to Horace Stoneham
About a month after the trade had been announced, Robinson informed Giants owner Horace Stoneham of his decision:
Dear Mr. Stoneham:
After due consideration I have decided to request to be placed on the voluntary retired list as I am going to devote my full time to the business opportunities that have been presented.
My sincere thanks to you and to Mr. Feeney for your wonderful cooperation and understanding in this matter.
I assure you that my retirement has nothing to do with my trade to your organization. From all I have heard from people who have worked with you it would have been a pleasure to have been in your organization.
Again my thanks and continued success for you and the New York Giants.
(signed) Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson's Retirement Was Not Related to the Trade
Most baseball fans don't change teams. Most baseball players do.
Contrary to what many fans, especially older fans want to believe, Robinson, one of the fiercest competitors to have ever played the game, had no qualms about joining the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers' most despised rival.
His retirement had nothing to do with the trade to the Giants.
The Giants Were Ready To Welcome Jackie Robinson
The Giants, especially Willie Mays, were ready to welcome Robinson. Mays hoped that he would help him to get off to a fast start in 1957.
Stoneham was emphatic in stating that he wanted Robinson on the Giants and was even willing to re-negotiate his contract.
Walter O'Malley Was Behind the Trade
Brooklyn owner Walter O'Malley, who became the most despised individual in Brooklyn when he took the team to Los Angeles, was behind the trade.
Brooklyn general manager Buzzie Bavasi opposed it.
"The only reason he was traded was because Walter O'Malley and Jackie never got along. It was a personal feud between Walter and Jackie, and I was asked to trade him.
Walter wanted a trade a year earlier, but I told Walter we could win the pennant in '56 with Jackie and wouldn't without him. So he put it off a year."
In his autobiography, Jackie described Walter O'Malley as "viciously antagonistic."
Jackie Was Concerned About His Future
Robinson said he was retiring because he had to think about the future and his family.
"At my age, a man doesn't have much future in baseball and very little security. After you've reached your peak, there's no sentiment in baseball.
You start slipping, and pretty soon they're moving you around like a used car. You have no control over what happens to you. I don't want that."
Jackie Had To Remain Silent
Robinson didn't tell Stoneham about his decision to retire when the trade was announced because he had signed an exclusive contract for Look Magazine to publish the story.
The magazine also revealed that Robinson had signed with Chock-Full-O'Nuts as a vice president.
Jackie Would Have Loved To Beat Brooklyn
Jackie Robinson hated to lose.
"It kills me to lose. If I'm a troublemaker, and I don't think that my temper makes me one, then it's because I can't stand losing.
That's the way I am about winning. All I ever wanted to do was finish first."
The Giants' Jackie Robinson would have delighted in beating his Brooklyn Dodgers as much as the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson delighted in beating the New York Giants.
By JAMES F. LYNCH. (1957, January 6). JACKIE ROBINSON QUITS BASEBALL; TRADE IS VOIDED: But Giants Seek to Induce Infielder Obtained From Brooks to Change Mind ATHLETE WRITES STORY Magazine Article Discloses He Made Decision Before Deal Was Announced Contract Not the Reason Began Article Before Deal Jackie Robinson Quits Baseball; Dodger Trade With Giants Void. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. S1. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York T