In honor of last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, I thought to tell the story of one of the most famous contracts of all time, the signing of Jackie Robinson for the St. Louis Cardinals. Brooklyn Dodgers to break through baseball’s color barrier, and the planned Cardinal players’ strike that never happened, a ghost from another era.
On the wide expanse of a crimson hood, the two holy gardeners smiled at the photographers on Opening Day of the 2009 season. Smiles on their faces, they rode in a red car through the bowels of Busch Stadium and out into the light of the outdoors of the field, greeting fans and chatting with each other while enjoying the applause and reflected glory of others.
Who knew that this day would be possible many decades ago? It may have been hard to imagine Stan Musial, Cardinal’s greatest hitter of all time, who played for the mighty Cardinals of the early 1940s, a team made up of white players, in a league full of whites, without a single black or brown-skinned gamer to sully the supremacist ideals of the time. But today, on Opening Day, Musial, the white-skinned Pennsylvanian, rides in the car alongside Albert Pujols, a dark Dominican and Cardinal’s best hitter since Musial. Pujols is so great that he may actually be better than Musial, as Cardinals fans will no doubt debate endlessly for years to come when Pujols racks up more successes and honors in our great anticipated future imaginations. But for now, forget about the unknown future, because this day, today, offers a future that we already know, a future that we can surprisingly see from the tense past of 1947.
What we see? We see Musial and Pujols smiling at each other, attacking cameras, praising each other’s hitting prowess, Pujols asking Musial for hitting advice, Musial joking in response, as loved as ever by Cardinals clients. , forever his Stan “The Man”. . “Pujols maintains such respect for Musial that he rejects the nickname” The Man “, which was given to him by the St. Louis scribes, saying that there is only one man, Stan Musial, and the press should not refer to anyone else with that designation. .
In this regard, this torch, passed down from the 1947 to the 2009 generation, should be an inspiring sight to the eyes of 1947. Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had signed Jackie Robinson, who in that year he took over second base and, more importantly, became the first black player in the major leagues. Many writers have detailed the numerous death threats, curses, slights and horrible indignities that Robinson faces, and James Giglio offers an account of Cardinal’s reaction in the biography, “Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man.”
Giglio called 1947 “a worrying year.” And the problems were many. Dixie Walker, Robinson’s teammate on the Dodgers, led the vitriol among his fellow Southern players inside the Dodgers clubhouse. When Dodgers star shortstop Pee Wee Reese challenged this confederacy by befriending Robinson, Walker’s support dwindled. However, Walker knew players from other teams who felt the same way. The Chicago Cubs starting pitchers were ordered to drop Robinson. Alabaman Phillies manager Ben Chapman encouraged his players to hit Robinson with pitches and drive him to the bases. It’s important to note that not all Southerners were unfair to Robinson, who recalled that Cardinals second baseman and South Carolina’s Marty Marion “was always nice to me.”
Many teams even considered voting on whether or not they would be willing to play the Dodgers. Several key factors set the stage for the Cardinals’ strike speech. St. Louis had one of the largest contingents of Southern players in the National League. St. Louis was the home of Sporting News, baseball’s self-styled bible, which had previously been against integration. The Cardinals and the Dodgers were two of the preeminent teams of the 1940s, with a strong rivalry that generated great enmity. And Dodgers manager Leo Durocher previously played for the Cardinals, starring in their great “Gashouse Gang” teams of the 1930s. Worse still, Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey used to be the general manager of the Dodgers. Cardinals
In 1917, the Cardinals were a second-class team in their own city, behind the St. Louis Browns in revenue and popularity. Branch Rickey took over as General Manager that year and made the Cardinals the best team in the National League with his innovative minor league farm system. But in 1942, after a fight with President Cardinal Sam Breadon over his contract renewal (the two apparently had a great relationship over the years, albeit with mutual respect), Rickey jumped to Brooklyn, leaving St. Louis back (Rickey was apparently particularly upset that his contract had not been renewed even though his Cardinals had beaten the Yankees and won the World Series that season). The gulf between the Dodgers and the Cardinals was deep and wide. Not only was Jackie Robinson black for the Dodgers, he was also blue for the Dodgers, facing the wrath of Cardinal, a red ember of Cardinal.
On May 9, New York Herald Tribune writer Stanley Woodward informed the baseball world of a threat to strike by a Cardinals player against the Dodgers. According to Woodward, Sam Breadon did not accept any of that. He flew to Manhattan for an audience with the president of the National League, Ford Frick. When the meeting ended, Frick told Breadon that potential strikers should remember this:
“If you [strike], you will be suspended from the league. You will find that the friends you think you have in the press box will not support you. They will be marginalized. I don’t care if half the league hits. Those who do will be in for a quick payoff. Everyone will be suspended and I don’t care if that ruins the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another … If he goes ahead with his intention, he will find that he has been guilty of complete insanity. ”
Woodward’s story may have encouraged other team owners to pressure their players not to hit as well.
The Cardinals and the legendary St. Louis sportswriter were appalled by these allegations, arguing that while there were complaints among some Cardinals players, nothing had come close to the level of distress described by Woodward.
What was Musial’s opinion on the matter? He reportedly confided in another Tribune writer, Roger Kahn, that Robinson’s talk among the Cardinals was “harsh and racial,” but nothing worse happened. Musial also denied the existence of a strike vote. Decades later, at a mid-1990s event in St. Louis promoting one of Kahn’s books, Musial strangely found himself sitting between Kahn and Broeg, who were arguing vehemently over the degree of anti-Robinson Cardinal fervor. Musial tried to stay on top of it all, but in 1997, at an event honoring the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, Musial argued that the Cardinals didn’t even discuss a strike. Giglio wasn’t so sure and openly wonders if Musial made such a statement so as not to embarrass many of his fellow Southern members who ended up on the wrong side of history. Regardless, Musial told Kahn that he “had no problems with integration” and took the time to honor Robinson.
Despite Musial’s respect for Robinson, Musial paid the price for Robinson’s detractors. If a Cardinals pitcher deliberately pitched Robinson, then Durocher would order the Dodgers pitcher to retaliate by pitching Musial. When Musial complained, Durocher apparently said, “You’re the best Cardinals man I know. For every time [Robinson] Get one, I think you’re going to get two. ”Durocher felt this kind of retaliation stopped the Cardinals from hurting Robinson. Cardinal’s manager Eddie Dyer at the time may have helped eventually convince his players to treat Robinson fairly, as Robinson recalled his first visit to the Cardinals stadium, Sportsman’s Park, where Dyer stopped Robinson in full view of the Cardinals and said, “He was glad to see me and he wished me luck.”
Robinson said that “Musial always treated me with courtesy.” In one game, enraged after being attacked by outfielder Cardinal Enos Slaughter, Musial overheard Robinson say how much he wanted revenge. Musial allegedly told him, “I don’t blame you. You have every right to do so.”
Thinking about our rights is perhaps the best way to end this story. The sustenance of our entire economy and way of life is embodied by the concept of a contract, an agreement reached between two parties, one who wants nothing more than the meritorious services of the other, and the other wants nothing more than the opportunity to do a job. trade, whether it’s to work in a coal mine, wait tables, run a major corporation, or even play baseball. When you come to an agreement with someone, you generally expect it to be met, your expectations met, and your rights fulfilled. Robinson’s great season represents the true achievement of this contract right, as he fulfilled his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, no matter who tried to thwart his deals with the Dodgers.
Along these lines, 1947 dissolves in 2009, leaving us alone with Musial and Pujols, sitting in a car, gliding through a stadium, embraced by the faithful cardinals, happy but perhaps unaware of the racial tensions that would make such a noble reunion inconceivable. years ago.
(This article is based on James Giglio’s excellent coverage in “Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man”)