CBC Digital Archives

1946: Jackie Robinson debuts with Montreal Royals

February is Black History Month. In Canada, it's a time to celebrate the achievements of black Canadians and reflect on their experiences throughout our past. CBC Digital Archives has pulled together a selection of radio and TV clips that honour black history — some of which exemplify the racism blacks have had to endure and overcome, both in Canada and around the world, while others highlight the remarkable accomplishments of extraordinary people.

Jackie Robinson spends just one year in Montreal, but changes it forever. In 1928 Montreal gets its first serious professional baseball team, the Montreal Royals of the International League. In 1945 the team is a Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey, president and co-owner of the Dodgers, chooses Montreal as the test bed for a move that would change baseball and earn Montreal a place in baseball history: he signs a black man.

A storm of controversy follows the signing of Jackie Robinson as the Royals' second baseman. As he tours with the Royals, Robinson is subjected to jeers and even death threats. But at home in Montreal, considered by many to be the most cosmopolitan and tolerant city in North America, Robinson is mostly welcomed with open arms. He returns the favour on April 18, 1946 with a stupendous first game.

Robinson hits a three-run home run, three singles, and steals two bases to help the Royals crush the Giants 14-1. That year he helps the Royals win the "Little World Series," and becomes a Montreal hero. He is immediately promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he becomes Rookie of the Year. Robinson spends ten years with the Dodgers, retiring in 1957. In this clip, CBC Television looks at Robinson's career and the legacy he leaves behind in Montreal.

• Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Ga. on Jan. 31, 1919. At UCLA, he excelled in baseball, football, basketball and track. Robinson was drafted into the army in 1942, and left it in 1944 to join the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.

• At the time, professional baseball was segregated by an unwritten rule against having black players in the major leagues. They were relegated to the Negro Leagues, which developed some great players but were largely ignored by the media.

• Branch Rickey considered signing Jackie Robinson his "Great Experiment." Despite the controversy and racist backlash that ensued, the signing quickly opened the door for other black players, including Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, who joined the Cleveland Indians. This eventually led to the demise of the Negro Leagues.

• Jackie Robinson led the Dodgers to six pennants in 10 years. In 1949 he was voted the league's Most Valuable Player. On April 15, 1997 he became the first and only player to have his uniform number (42) retired not just by his team, but by Major League Baseball.

Also on April 18:
1875: An Act of Parliament creates the Supreme Court of Canada. The court sits for the first time on Jan. 17, 1876. • 1977: Toronto's Jerome Drayton wins the Boston Marathon. He is the eighth Canadian to win the famous road race.
1994: Audrey McLaughlin announces her resignation as federal NDP leader.

Medium: Television
Program: Newswatch
Broadcast Date: May 8, 1987
Guest(s): Jackie Robinson
Reporter: Bob McDevitt
Duration: 3:46

Last updated: March 7, 2012

Page consulted on May 2, 2012

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