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Sports


New movie "42" has strong ties to Ohio
The role Branch Rickey’s wife played in process of integrating major league baseball
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


Reporter
Jo Ingles
 
Jackie Robinson was the first African American player to sign a formal playing contract, breaking the color barriers in Major League Baseball.
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Today is Jackie Robinson Day and at major league ballparks throughout the nation— all teams will be celebrating his accomplishments as the first African American to play major league baseball.

The movie “42” that tells Robinson’s story topped the box office on its opening weekend. The grandson of Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who signed Robinson to his major league baseball contract, was in Delaware, OH to mark the occasion.

The younger Rickey says he enjoyed the movie but wish it would have put a few details in about his grandfather. One detail the younger Rickey said he would have liked to see is something about the role of his grandmother as Rickey and Robinson fought to integrate baseball. Branch B. Rickey, the grandson, says his grandfather received threatening letters but never knew it at the time.

Hear how Rickey's wife played a role in integrating the major leagues

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“Many of the death threats, well I don’t want to say death threats, but the composite of the vile letters— they tracked down the home address and sent those letters on home,” Rickey said. “My grandfather never saw a one. My grandmother got them and put them away, pretended they didn't exist. That’s how supportive she was in this whole effort. They both realized that there was going to be a backlash.”

The senior Branch Rickey was inspired to integrate baseball by an experience he had while coaching baseball in the early 1900’s at Ohio Wesleyan University.

The team took a trip to play a game in Indiana. The hotel clerk would not allow the African American player on the team, Charles Thomas, stay in the hotel. Rickey negotiated a compromise to share his room with Thomas.

Rickey’s grandson says when his grandfather entered the hotel room that day, Thomas was sitting on the bed, crying and rubbing his hands. Thomas told the elder Rickey that if he could wash the black off his skin, he could prove he’s no different from any white person. That incident inspired Rickey to integrate major league baseball years later when the opportunity came along to do so.

Read about how LA Dodgers are celebrating the legacy of Jackie Robinson 

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