Monday, November 4, 2013

Sobriety, decorum urged on Robinson's fans

I've been reading my microfilm of 1947 issues of The Sporting News, gathering information for this blog and for my custom/fantasy cards.

Obviously there is a lot of content in those issues about Jackie Robinson’s advancement to the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

While there is probably nothing there that hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed and anthologized in books and articles over the past half-century, it interests me to read it from contemporary accounts.

One article in the May 21, 1947, issue was quite jarring in its view of black fans. The article was basically a reprint from an editorial in a Pittsburgh newspaper.

The theme of the editorial was that black fans should “(take) this tremendous victory in stride.”

There was a series of exhortations in the form of “challenges” that those fans were urged to meet. 

They included . . .

“The challenge to NOT recognize the appearance of Jackie Robinson as the signal for a Roman holiday, with the Bacchanalian orgy complex!”

“The challenge to stop . . . booing over some untoward incident which might happen on the ball field. Remember that Jackie might be ‘roughed up’ some, because that’s the way they play in the majors . . . for keeps!”

“The challenge to leave whiskey bottles at home or on the shelves of the liquor stores (and to leave) loud talking, obscene language and indecent dress on the outside of the ball parks.”

Surprisingly, this racist stereotyping was published in a “Negro newspaper,” the Pittsburgh Courier, under the by-line of managing editor William G. Nunn.

It was just one of many examples of the black community’s attempts to rein in the demonstration of racial pride so as not to provide “the man” with an excuse to label the baseball breakthrough a failure.

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