The Fake History of the 20th Century
It’s one of the most famous moments in sports history, or 20th Century American history, period. Jackie Robinson, the first player to break the pro baseball color barrier, took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on the road against the Cincinnati Reds. A hostile racist crowd poured abuse down onto him. But then, Robinson’s teammate Harold “Pee Wee” Reese shamed and quieted the crowd by walking over to Robinson and putting his arm around him in a gesture of support. It’s a moment immortalized in film, in children’s books, and even in bronze.
But as the Wall Street Journal revealed in a recent article, the whole episode never happened:
No newspapers reported the event at the time. In fact, the New York Post said Robinson had been “the toast of the town” in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Post reported the day after the game: “If anyone had any objection to Jackie’s presence on the field, he failed to make himself heard.” Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Robinson called his visit to Crosley Field “a nice experience.”
The story of the Cincinnati embrace surfaced decades later in an interview with one of Robinson’s teammates, pitcher Rex Barney. But Barney got one of the key details wrong. He said he was warming up to pitch in the first inning of the game when Reese shut down the hecklers. The fact is, Barney didn’t pitch that day until the seventh inning.
In interviews I conducted with Robinson’s wife, Rachel, for my book on his breakthrough season, she insisted that no such hug occurred in 1947.
This wasn’t just a harmless myth. For decades, ordinary people in Cincinnati were tarred as hateful racists in order to further a specific narrative about America. They weren’t the only victims of myths related to Robinson. Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals has been villainized for decades for slashing Robinson with his spiked cleats during a play at first base. But Slaughter always insisted the injury was accidental, and sportswriters at the game from both St. Louis and New York City agreed, saying that nothing appeared deliberate about the incident. Similarly, in the 2013 film about Robinson, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller is portrayed intentionally hitting Robinson in the head with a pitch before insulting him with a racist comment. In reality, the pitch hit Robinson on the wrist and there is no evidence of such an insult at all.
But all three myths will live on, because they are useful. They promote a certain story about America: That until very recently the country was overwhelmingly bigoted and hateful, and good for very little else. In fact, America’s entire
Article from LewRockwell