Seventy years ago today, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers made his debut at Ebbets Field. This historic moment marked the first time in the twentieth century that an African-American played major league baseball.
Fifty years later, on April 15, 1997, President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Jackie Robinson in Shea Stadium, and Major League Baseball retired his number 42 throughout the league. “No man is bigger than baseball,” commissioner Bud Selig said, “except Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson is bigger than baseball.”
By signing Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers had ended the institutionalized racial segregation in baseball that had existed since the 1880s. Robinson endured the slings and arrows of racial slurs bravely and stoically, proving through his play on the field that blacks were just as capable as whites of playing outstanding baseball. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, there is little doubt that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier impacted the history of America. As the world continues to face issues of hatred and discrimination today, perhaps Robinson’s example is one we should all keep in mind as we continue to strive forward.
On March 16, 1961, the state of New York approved the bond issue that would lead to the construction of a 55,000-seat stadium in Queens, New York City. The new ballpark would be named Shea Stadium after William A. Shea, the lawyer who was instrumental in bringing the National League Mets to New York. Shea Stadium was home to the Mets from 1964-2008 as well as the New York Jets from 1964-1983.
The longest double header in Major League history was played on 31 May 1964 at Shea Stadium. The Giants defeated the Mets 5-3 in the first game of the day. Pitcher Gaylord Perry then led San Francisco to another victory in the second game, pitching ten innings in relief as the Giants won 8-6 in twenty-three innings. The second game lasted seven hours, twenty-three minutes, and the two games combined lasted nine hours, fifty-two minutes.
During the second game, the Mets turned a rare triple play in the fourteenth inning, and Gaylord Perry supposedly threw his first spitball in a Major League game.