The Brooklyn Dodgers Defied the Ku Klux Klan

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The Brooklyn Dodgers Defied the Ku Klux Klan
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Brooklyn Dodgers had scheduled three exhibition games against the Atlanta Crackers to be played in early April 1949, in Atlanta.

The Ku Klux Klan was not pleased, not because the presence of two Dodgers, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, virtually ensured that the Crackers would have a difficult time winning, but because Robinson and Campanella were Negroes.



Branch Rickey's Strong Reaction

The Ku Klux Klan didn't realize with whom it was dealing. Brooklyn Dodgers' president Branch Rickey responded to Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Dr. Samuel Green and Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge forcefully.

"Nobody can tell me anywhere what players I can or cannot play.

"I regret very much that anybody anywhere should object to the Dodgers playing a game with their regular team, and it certainly would not be our intention to break the law. That we would never do.

"If we are not allowed to use the players we want or we are told we are breaking the law, why, the Dodgers simply won't play there."



Against the Law

The Grand Dragon contended that it was against Georgia's segregation law for Negroes to play baseball games open to the public.

The Governor said that he had not been told about the games, and that he had been busy at the State Legislature.

Atlanta Crackers owner Earl Mann simply said that his team would face whatever team the Dodgers put on the field.



No Law Existed

About one week later, the Atlanta City Attorney and the Georgia Attorney General concluded that no law existed to prevent Robinson or Campanella from playing.

Fifty individuals listed in the telephone book were randomly selected and asked what they thought about the situation.

Forty approved of Robinson and Campanella playing. Four said it made no difference to them. Six opposed, either because it might cause problems or because it just wasn't a good idea.

Apr. 8 arrived, and prior to the game, Grand Dragon Dr. Green said that 10,000 people had signed a pledge never to enter the Atlanta park again if a baseball game with players of mixed races were played there.

"The Ku Klux Klan is a law-abiding organization. There is no law against the game. But we have an unwritten law in the south—the Jim Crow law.

The Atlanta Baseball Club is breaking down traditions of the South and the club will pay for it."



More Than a Capacity Crowd

The game was played before more than a capacity crowd. Temporary ropes stretched from left field to the wall in right field to allow more people to attend the game.

The fans, both black and white were sophisticated and, while most enthusiastically cheered Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, there were no special demonstrations for the two future Hall of Famers.



Just Another Game

Robinson had two hits, Campanella had one, and Brooklyn won the game, 6-3, but the next day, Atlanta turned the tables.

The Crackers pounded Brooklyn 9-1. Robinson went hitless in four at-bats, and Campanella didn't play, but what was significant was that the newspaper accounts of the game treated it merely as a baseball game.

The story was that Atlanta beat Brooklyn. There was little mention of Jackie Robinson or Roy Campanella, which is the way it should be.

Jackie and Campy were Dodgers. They were ballplayers who played for Brooklyn. The amount of melanin their skin contained is irrelevant. Melanin doesn't enhance pitching or batting skills.



References:

By JOHN DREBINGER. (1949, January 15). Rickey to Cancel Atlanta Games if Negro Stars Are Barred From the Field. New York Times (1857-Current file),12. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 96443418).

No Legal Bar Against Negro Players in Georgia, Officials Say. (1949, January 18). New York Times (1857-Current file),28. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 85328067).

KLAN DECLARES BOYCOTT :Grand Dragon Says 10,000 Sign Pledge Against Crackers. (1949, April 9). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 13. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 85636995).

By ROSCOE McGOWENSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. (1949, April 9). 15,119 SEE DODGERS BEAT ATLANTA, 6-3. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 13. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 85636994).

By ROSCOE McGOWEN, & Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. (1949, April 10). DODGERS SET BACK BY ATLANTA, 9 TO 1. New York Times (1857-Current file),S1. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 96453846).

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