In honor of last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, I thought I’d tell the story of one of the most famous contracts. of all time, the signing of Jackie Robinson by the Brooklyn Dodgers to break baseball’s color barrier and the Cardinal’s planned player strike that never happened, a ghost from another era.
Above the vast expanse of a crimson hood, the two sacred off-camera smiles at the photographers on the opening day of the 2009 season. Smiles on their faces, they drove a red car through the bowels of the Busch. Stadium and in the light of the open air of the pitch, greeting fans and chatting with each other as they bask in each other’s applause and glory.
Who knew this day would be possible decades ago? It might have been hard to imagine for Stan Musial, the greatest cardinal hitter of all time, who played for the powerful 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 player to sully the supremacist ideals of the time. But today, on this opening day, Musial, the white-skinned Pennsylvanian, gets in the car alongside Albert Pujols, a dark Dominican, and the biggest cardinal hitter since Musial. Pujols is so tall he might be better than Musial, as Cardinals aficionados will undoubtedly debate endlessly in the years to come when Pujols amasses more success and accolades in our great future imaginations. But, for now, forget about the unknown future, for that day, today, offers a future we already know, a future we can surprisingly see from the tense past of 1947.
What do we see? We see Musial and Pujols smile at each other, fight for the cameras, congratulate each other on their punching prowess, Pujols ask Musial for advice on the stick, musical jokes in response, as loved as ever by Cardinals customers, forever their Stan “The Man.” Pujols maintains such respect for Musial that he rejects the nickname, “El Hombre” (Spanish for “the man”), which the scribes of St. Louis bestowed upon him, saying he did not There is only one man, Stan Musial, and the press should not refer to any other with that name.
Seeing this respect, this torch, passed down from the 1947 generation to that of 2009, must be an inspiring sight to see from the eyes of 1947. Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had signed Jackie Robinson, who that year regained the second base and, more importantly, became the first black player in Major League Baseball. Many writers have detailed the many death threats, curses, clashes, and horrific indignities that Robinson faces, and James Giglio provides an account of the cardinal’s reaction in the biography, “Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man”.
Giglio called 1947 “A troubling year”. And the troubles were numerous. Dixie Walker, Robinson’s Dodger teammate, led the vitriol among his fellow Southern players at the Dodger club. When the Dodgers’ star shortstop Kentuckian Pee Wee Reese challenged that confederation by befriending Robinson, Walker’s support waned. However, Walker knew players from other teams who felt the same way. The Chicago Cub’s starting pitchers were asked to knock down Robinson. Phillies manager Alabaman Ben Chapman encouraged his players to chop Robinson with throws and hit him on the basepaths. It’s important to note that not all Southerners have been unfair to Robinson, who recalled that Cardinals and South Carolinian second baseman Marty Marion “has always been kind to me.”
Many teams have 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. Saint-Louis had one of the largest contingents of southern players in the National League. St. Louis was the birthplace of Sporting News, the self-proclaimed bible of baseball, which was previously against integration. The Cardinals and Dodgers were two of the preeminent teams of the 1940s, with a strong rivalry that generated great enmity. And Dodger manager Leo Durocher once played for the Cardinals, with their great 1930s “Gashouse Gang” teams. Worse, Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey was the Cardinals general manager.
By 1917, the Cardinals were a second-class team in their own city, behind the St. Louis Browns in both revenue and popularity. Branch Rickey took over as general manager that year and made the Cardinals the best team in the National League with their innovative system of minor league farms. But in 1942, after a falling out with Cardinal President Sam Breadon over his contract renewal (apparently the two had a cool relationship over the years, but with mutual respect), Rickey jumped to Brooklyn, leaving St. Louis behind (Rickey was apparently particularly upset that his contract was not renewed as his Cardinals beat the Yankees and won the World Series this season). The chasm between the Dodgers and the Cardinals was deep and wide. Jackie Robinson was not only black Dodger, he was also blue Dodger, in the face of the Cardinal’s wrath, a red embers of the Cardinal.
On May 9, New York Herald Tribune writer Stanley Woodward told the baseball world about a Cardinals player’s strike threat against the Dodgers. According to Woodward, Sam Breadon had none. He flew to Manhattan for an audience with National League President Ford Frick. At the end of the meeting, Frick told Breadon that would-be 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 room will not support you. You will be outcasts. I don’t care if half the league hits. Those who do so will suffer rapid retribution. Everything will be suspended and I don’t care if it destroys the National League for five years. We are in the United States of America and one citizen has as much the right to play as another….
Woodward’s story may have encouraged other team owners to put pressure on their players not to hit too.
The Cardinals and the legendary St. Louis sports writer were dismayed by the accusations, saying that while there was grunting among a few Cardinals players, nothing had approached the level of angst described by Woodward.
What was Musial’s position on the case? He apparently told fellow Tribune writer Roger Kahn that Robinson’s speech among the cardinals was “brutal and racial,” but nothing worse happened. Musial also denied the existence of a strike vote. Decades later, at an event in the mid-90s in St. Louis promoting one of Kahn’s books, Musial found himself strangely seated between Kahn and Broeg, who were vehemently arguing over the degree of fervor. anti-Robinson Cardinal. Musial tried to stay on top of everything, but in 1997, at an event honoring Robinson’s 50th birthday breaking baseball’s color barrier, Musial argued that the Cardinals had never even discussed a strike. Giglio wasn’t so sure and openly wonders if Musial made that statement so as not to embarrass many of his southern teammates who found themselves on the wrong side of history. Either way, Musial told Kahn that “he had no problem 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 Cardinal pitcher deliberately threw at Robinson, Durocher ordered Launcher Dodger to retaliate by throwing at Musial. When Musial complained, Durocher apparently said, “You are the best man I know on the Cardinals. For every time. [Robinson] has one, it looks to me like you will have two. Durocher felt that kind of retaliation had kept the Cardinals from hurting Robinson. Cardinal Dyer’s manager at the time might have helped convince his players to treat Robinson fairly, as Robinson recalled his first visit to Cardinals Stadium, Sportsman’s Park, where Dyer stopped Robinson in sight of the Cardinals and said, “He was happy to see me and wished me luck.”
Robinson said that “Musial has always treated me with courtesy”. In one match, enraged after being drugged by Cardinal outfielder Enos Slaughter, Musial overheard Robinson say how much he wanted revenge. Musial reportedly told him, “I don’t blame you. You have every right to do this.”
Thinking about our rights is perhaps the most appropriate way to end this story. The foundation of our entire economy and way of life is embodied in the concept of a contract, an agreement between two parties, one desiring nothing more than the meritorious service of the other, and this other wanting nothing more than a business chance, whether it be to work in a coal mine, wait for tables, run a large company or even play baseball. When you make a deal with someone, you usually expect them to be respected, your expectations fulfilled, and your rights respected. Robinson’s breakthrough season represents the true realization of that contract right, as he fulfilled his dream of playing Major League Baseball, no matter who tried to prevent his relationship with the Dodgers.
In that vein, 1947 dissolves in 2009, leaving us with just Musial and Pujols, sitting in a car, sliding through a stadium, embraced by loyal cardinals, happy but perhaps oblivious to the racial tensions that would make such a noble gathering inconceivable. for many years ago.
(This article is based on the excellent coverage by James Giglio in “Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man”)