When Jim Crow Got Cut From Spring Training

tags: Jim Crow

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, is the author of nine books and a contributor to NBC News and “PBS NewsHour.” Follow him on Twitter at @BeschlossDC.

Here, in March 1947, Jackie Robinson, who was vying to become the first African-American in Major League Baseball in the modern era, obliges an autograph seeker during spring training in Havana.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were starting their preseason in Cuba that spring, in part because their general manager, Branch Rickey, wanted to minimize racial antagonisms that would make it more difficult for him to promote Robinson from his farm club, the Montreal Royals.

(Rickey also hoped that training in a Latin American country would help America’s major leagues deflect competition from the Mexican League, which was offering big money — by the standards of the time — to buy off American stars.)

How Jim Crow got cut from spring training was, in retrospect, a small but significant episode in the history of the American civil rights movement.

Florida — whose Grapefruit League has included locations like Bradenton, Dunedin, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Tampa, Clearwater and Lakeland — has been attracting spring training teams since the late 1880s. ...

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