A Different Story:
How the Press Covered Baseball's First Integrated Spring Training
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529
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Department of Journalism
California State University, Chico
Chico, CA 95929-0600
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Submitted to The History Division, The Association for Education in
Journalism and Mass Communication convention, Anaheim, California, August 10-13,
Baseball became integrated during the spring training of 1946 in
Daytona Beach, Florida, deep in the Jim Crow South. Through a deeper
understanding of the media coverage of Jackie Robinson's first spring training,
we can understand the problems facing a society struggling with the demands of
integration and the media's role in that drama. The nation's black weeklies
realized the significance of the integration of baseball far better than the
mainstream press. In addition, the black press covered the story with more
emotion and more personal details about Robinson.
A half-century has passed since Jackie Robinson became the first
black in the 20th century to play with whites in organized professional
baseball. Baseball became integrated during the spring training of 1946 in
Daytona Beach, Florida, deep in the Jim Crow South, where the inequalities and
prejudices of a racist, segregated society came together with the inequalities
and prejudices of baseball. It was a different story for the black and white
press in America. For the black press, the Robinson story transcended sports and
touched on racial issues neglected by both the mainstream press and the society
at large. The mainstream press, however, covered the story as little more than a
curiosity, rarely giving it the social or cultural context it deserved.
Several scholars and writers, including Jules Tygiel, David Wiggins,
William Weaver, Donald Deardorff, and James Reisler have concluded that black
sportswriters played an important part in integrating baseball. According to
Deardorff, the black press spread the segregation issue through its own columns
and articles but also by appealing to sympathetic white sportswriters. Tygiel
noted the irony of black sportswriters campaigning to integrate baseball: Jim
Crow limited not just athletes but the reporters who covered them.
Black sportswriters such as Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier,
Sam Lacy of the Afro-American newspapers, Joe Bostic of The People's Voice, and
Fay Young of the Chicago Defender, actively campaigned for the integration of
baseball by appealing to sympathetic whites, pressuring owners of baseball
teams, and sometimes organizing public protests to voice their dissatisfaction
with baseball's "unwritten law" prohibiting blacks. Smith, of the Courier,
the most widely circulated black newspaper of its time, has been most often
identified with trying to integrate baseball. According to Wiggins, it was Smith
"who most doggedly fought for the inclusion of blacks in organized baseball."
Robinson said he would always be indebted to Smith, who recommended him to
Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who signed him to a
contract in 1945, ending decades of segregation in baseball.
In his first autobiography, written with Smith in 1948, Robinson
noted that the nation's sportswriters were responsible for the entry of blacks
into organized baseball. He would change his mind in a subsequent book by
saying that the press "frequently stirred up trouble by baiting me or jumping
into any situation I was involved in without completely checking the facts."
Perhaps he felt more comfortable speaking his mind after his retirement from
baseball than he did at the beginning of his career.
Whatever the case, the evidence would support neither position
entirely. Most white sportswriters ignored the issues of segregation and
integration. However, a few sportswriters such as Jimmy Powers of the New York
Daily News, Hugh Bradley of the Philadelphia Examiner and Dave Egan of the
Boston Daily Record, openly questioned the merits of segregation during the
1930s and early 1940s. But the overwhelming majority, however, like the
public they wrote for, either ignored the issue completely or, as The Sporting
News did in 1942, simply said that no good would come from raising the race
This article explores press treatment of an experience that has thus
far been neglected by scholars, baseball's first integrated spring training.
Through a deeper understanding of the media coverage of Robinson's first spring
training, we can understand the problems facing a society struggling with the
demands of integration and the media's role in the drama. A study of the press
coverage in the spring of 1946 underscores the conclusions of the 1947 Hutchins
Report, which criticized the media for failing to provide information and
interpretation that would help its readers understand the day's events.
This article contributes to the literature on the press and the
integration of baseball. It also contributes to the literature on the press
coverage of Robinson, the first black ballplayer in organized baseball during
the 20th century. In a content analysis of newspaper coverage of the signing of
Robinson in 1945, Kelley said that black newspapers reported the news as
historically significant, while metropolitan newspapers treated it as relatively
unimportant. Washburn found that three New York City metropolitan newspapers
provided relatively fair coverage of Robinson during his first season in the
major leagues in 1947, though there were some instances of subtle bias. He
wrote that additional studies of sportswriting and minorities would show that
sportswriters, "because of their love of athletic ability and accomplishments,
have led the way on most newspapers in bringing about objective coverage of
This analysis focuses on the period from March 1, 1946, when Robinson
was scheduled to arrive in Daytona Beach for his tryout with Montreal and
continued for six weeks until April 14, when Montreal left Florida to begin its
regular season schedule. About 30 newspapers were selected for the sample based
on several criteria. The sample included the most widely circulated black
weeklies in the country to understand how the story played in the black press;
New York City metropolitan dailies, which had sportswriters in Daytona Beach to
cover the Brooklyn Dodgers' spring training; Florida dailies to see how the
story was reported throughout the state; two English-language dailies in
Montreal, where Robinson would play that summer; The Sporting News, the most
prominent sports weekly at the time; and a number of other dailies to get a
sense of wire service coverage of the story.
SEGREGATION CAME SLOWLY
Wendell Smith had campaigned for the integration of baseball since
1937. Smith and Sam Lacy worked within the existing system, enlisting the
assistance of sympathetic white sportswriters and baseball executives. Their
strategy differed from that of their colleague, Joe Bostic of The People's
Voice, of New York City, who openly challenged segregation in his columns, led
delegations to the offices of major league teams, and showed up at the Brooklyn
spring training in Bear Mountain, New York, in 1945, demanding that three black
players be given tryouts. Lacy was critical of what he called grandstanding
and thought it obstructed with more subtle efforts to integrate the game.
Both methods proved more frustrating than fruitful. The Pittsburgh
Pirates made overtures toward signing players on the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the
Negro Leagues in the 1930s but then backed off. When Bill Veeck, Jr. told
baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis he wanted to buy the Philadelphia
Phillies and sign black players, the commissioner, an ardent segregationist,
blocked the sale. When a Boston city commissioner and Dave Egan of the
Boston Record pressured the Red Sox to give a tryout to Robinson and Sam
Jethroe, the team did so reluctantly but never contacted the ballplayers
again. The reception given to Bostic at Bear Mountain only further
discouraged the integrationists.
On August 29, 1945, however, Rickey quietly signed Robinson to a
minor league contract with Montreal. Smith, who had recommended Robinson to
Rickey, knew about the contract but kept the news out of the newspaper until
Rickey felt the time was right for the announcement. The Mayor's Committee on
Anti-Discrimination in New York City, which had been studying the integration of
baseball, had become mired in politics. If Rickey waited any longer to make his
announcement, he feared that his intentions would suffer the same fate. His
ability to work behind the scenes, his sense of timing, his ability to manage
the press, and his willingness to challenge segregation on his own terms would
ultimately further his cause as much as anything that happened on the field that
A white-owned newspaper in Daytona Beach, Florida, also knew about
the signing of Robinson and also kept the news quiet. On August 29, Rickey
selected Daytona Beach as the spring training site for the Brooklyn
organization. He recognized that Daytona Beach would be a relatively
friendly climate for his racial experiment. Blacks in Daytona Beach had achieved
a measure of power and advantages largely unknown in other parts of Florida.
It was the home of the prominent civil rights advocate Mary McLeod Bethune, the
founder of the black college in the city and an adviser to Eleanor
Roosevelt. But perhaps most importantly, Daytona Beach city manager James
Titus and Mayor William Perry had guaranteed Rickey that Robinson would be
allowed to play. Daytona Beach, for its part, saw that tourism promised
economic opportunity and a spring training site would draw tourists.
Montreal announced the signing of Robinson on October 23. The
differences in the coverage between black and white newspapers is striking. The
Sporting News, for example, downplayed the story's historical significance and
said the news received more attention than it was worth. The editorial also
doubted if Robinson was good enough to play in the major leagues. Another
article included reactions to the signing from baseball officials, team
executives, and sportswriters. The president of the Texas League, a minor
league, said he was positive that blacks would never play organized ball in the
South, "as long as the Jim Crow laws are in force."
White sportswriters reacted generally favorably on the record. Red
Smith of the New York Herald-Tribune wrote that Robinson could win over his
critics with determination and talent, wrote that: "There is more democracy in
the locker room than on the street." Montreal newspapers also were clearly
supportive. The Star said no sports story had ever caught the sports public
there "with such intense interest and speculation." Le Canada called Rickey
and Robinson "pioneers in fair play in baseball," but said they would not be
appreciated in American cities, "for feeling against Negroes is so acute."
It was left to the black press to put the story in perspective. This
was a role well-known to the black press, which had spent the years of World War
II pointing out the hypocrisy of the fight to free the world from
totalitarianism, while the nation itself suffered the injustice of
Black sportswriters saw the signing of Robinson as an important
national story. Ludlow Werner of the New York Age said Robinson would be haunted
by the expectations of his race. To millions of blacks, "he would symbolize not
only their prowess in baseball, but their ability to rise to an
opportunity." Wendell Smith, meanwhile, wrote that the signing of Robinson
was "the most American and democratic step baseball has made in 25 years."
Eddie Burdridge of the California Eagle wrote that Robinson was the "best
all-around athlete ever developed in Southern California if not the nation," a
contrast to the Los Angeles Times, which classified Robinson as the best
all-around prospect "of his race."
In the next day's Brooklyn Eagle, columnist Tommy Holmes wrote that
Robinson's first big challenge would come in Daytona Beach during spring
training: "Anyone who has ever traveled that far South can't help but wonder
just how things can be arranged. Fundamental things such as where he will sleep
and where he will eat. Not to mention what traveling accommodations they'll let
him have in deepest Dixie."
Rickey was well aware of this. In a lengthy interview in The
Pittsburgh Courier, he said he did not expect Daytona Beach to change its
segregation laws. "I can't go to the Florida Legislature and say: 'Look here,
now, you've got to change your laws because Montreal has a colored player on its
team.'" Rickey left little to chance. He sent a special assistant to Daytona
Beach to work with city officials and find accommodations for the
ballplayer. He also signed another black prospect, Johnny Wright, so that
Robinson would not be alone. Finally, he hired Wendell Smith and Billy Rowe, a
photographer with the Courier, to provide companionship for Robinson and
Smith and Rowe did not think there was anything wrong with this
conflict of interest. They saw themselves as a counter to the biased coverage in
the mainstream press, which wanted Robinson to fail, the journalists thought. In
their eyes, they were doing the right thing and fighting the right fight.
The Courier also published a first-person story with Robinson. By contrast there
was little or nothing from Robinson in the mainstream press. White sportswriters
would make little effort to interview Robinson during the spring, relying
instead for their information from Rickey, team officials, or by talking to
When the signing was announced, the Daytona Beach newspapers added an
editor's note to the wire story to remind readers that the Royals would be
training with the Dodgers in the spring. It also published a column by Bill
Corum of the New York Journal-American, a part-time Daytona Beach resident, who
had helped convince Rickey to bring his team to Daytona Beach. Integration of
baseball was inevitable, he wrote and fans should accept it with common sense.
"I would be deeply ashamed to think that in sports--where sportsmanship and fair
play are paramount--that there could be any serious or organized bigotry," Corum
But the Daytona Beach newspapers all but ignored the Robinson story
over the winter. They ran nothing on a visit by Rickey to Daytona Beach in late
October to make preparations for the team's visit to Daytona Beach. Herbert
Davidson, the publisher of the Daytona Beach newspapers, was part of the talks
but his newspapers reported nothing. Davidson believed that the Robinson story
should not incite troublemakers and controlled news content to keep the city
calm. A January wire story that addressed Robinson's effect on the future of
the Negro Leagues failed to mention that Robinson was bound for Daytona
Beach. A story on the farm system did not mention Robinson. In fact, the
Daytona Beach newspapers would say little about Robinson during the spring.
When Robinson arrived in Daytona Beach on March 3, 1946, he stepped
off a Greyhound bus and he was angry, dejected, tired, and hungry. Waiting for
him were Smith and Rowe. An animated Robinson told Smith and Rowe a tale of
bigotry that had followed him on his way to break baseball's color line.
Robinson and his wife Rachel had been prohibited from eating in an airport
restaurant during a layover in New Orleans and were then bumped from the next
flight. After spending the night in a seedy blacks-only motel, they got a flight
to Pensacola, where they were bumped and replaced with white passengers. He was
already late for spring training and the airline couldn't guarantee if or when a
plane would be available to take them to Daytona Beach. The Robinsons endured a
16-hour bus ride, where they had to face the humility of having to sit in the
back. By the time they arrived in Daytona Beach, Robinson wanted to go back
to California, but Smith and Rowe talked him out of it.
The Associated Press story announcing Robinson's late arrival in
Florida contained an official statement from Brooklyn Dodger president Branch
Rickey explaining that the ballplayer's flight had been delayed by weather. This
false story appeared on the wire services and was reported by the mainstream
newspapers throughout the country. Only Jimmy Powers of the New York Daily News,
who had long feuded with Rickey, found the team's explanation mysterious. It
said that Robinson had twice been bumped off his plane for military purposes at
a time when travel priorities have become so relaxed as to preclude such
Black newspapers were more forthcoming. The Chicago Defender, for
example, said that Robinson had been bumped from an airplane in Pensacola with
two other passengers "because the plane could not refuel with the weight of the
three people aboard. That was the Dodgers' explanation." The Pittsburgh
Courier also was privy to the real story but handled it carefully. Smith wrote
that the Robinsons had been bumped off two planes and forced to ride a bus.
Several weeks later, Smith admitted that he had withheld certain incidents for
fear of jeopardizing the integration of baseball.
Shortly before the start of spring training, Brooklyn, in an effort
to accommodate the overfill of players returning from the war, decided to move
its AAA teams, the Montreal Royals and the St. Paul Saints, 40 miles west to
Sanford for a week and a half. It probably seemed like a good idea to test out
integration in the relative obscurity of the rural town, but this turned out to
be a mistake. While Rickey and his advance men had spent considerable time with
Daytona Beach officials in the weeks and months before camp opened, they did not
do this in Sanford.
The press corps in Sanford included sportswriters from The New York
Times, New York Daily Mirror, Brooklyn Eagle, Pittsburgh Courier, Baltimore
Afro-American, Norfolk Journal and Guide, and wire services such as The
Associated Press, United Press, and the American Negro Press Association.
Florida newspapers, including the Daytona Beach papers, the Morning Journal and
Evening News, relied on wire service accounts. Black sportswriters reported the
story with more emotion, more optimism, and more personal details. For instance,
black sportswriters editorialized on the significance of the spring training but
also were more likely to quote Robinson directly and tell their readers how he
was coping with the pressure. Smith published numerous photographs of Robinson,
especially of him interacting with white players, while leading white newspapers
published no photographs.
While the New York dailies commented on the historical significance
of Robinson's first day at practice, black sportswriters, such as Lacy, included
such mundane details as Johnny Wright jogging twice around the field alone
because the other players had already done calisthenics. Lacy said that
Robinson lined the first pitch from the batting machine into left field; his
second swing produced a weak roller; and in his third at-bat, he hit an
impressive fly to center field. According to Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn
Eagle, however, Robinson bunted twice and swung at three or four others in his
first appearance, making little or no contact with the ball.
While the white players resided in the Mayfair Hotel on the lakefront
in Sanford, the Robinsons stayed with Mr. and Mrs. David Brock and Wright stayed
across the street in the home of Mrs. A.L. Jones. "Both residences are large,
elaborately furnished, and extremely clean," Lacy pointed out. Smith told
Courier readers that Sanford "was one of the most hospitable cities in the South
and from all indications, Robinson will be free of the customary regulations
which prohibit Negroes from mingling and associating with white people
But Smith's assessment of Sanford proved overly optimistic. After the
second day of practice, a delegation of Sanford citizens told the Montreal team
that they would not permit blacks and whites to play on the same field. The
Sanford incident went unreported in the press. For Rickey and the Brooklyn
organization, the publicity would be embarrassing and might threaten the
experiment. Smith also had his reasons for not disclosing the incident -- as he
had with the details of Robinson's trip to spring training; again, the
sportswriter selectively framed prejudicial news. He felt strongly that the
printing of some news could hurt the cause of integration.
Daytona Beach Mayor William Perry and City Manager James Titus told
the Courier that Robinson and Wright would be treated no differently than any
other ballplayer. An American Negro Press Association story reported that
the remarks dispelled fears that the ballplayers would be confronted with
hostility in Daytona Beach -- as long as they obeyed the city's segregation
laws. Robinson and Wright stayed in private homes in the black part of town
not far from Kelly Field. The black sportswriters stayed nearby at Bethune
Robinson played four innings at shortstop during a seven-inning
scrimmage between Montreal's substitutes and Brooklyn's substitutes at Kelly
Field. If there was any significance related to the game, very few newspapers
readers knew about it. But it was more than a practice to Lacy, who wrote that
"it was the first time in history that a colored player had competed in a game
representing a team in modern organized baseball."
Robinson struggled during the first weeks of practice. He threw his
arm out throwing from shortstop and had to be moved to first base. He also
struggled at the bat. He had little contact with his white teammates before,
during or after practices. But this was not the impression conveyed in the
newspapers. Stories in the white and black press gave the impression that all
was well at Kelly Field. An Associated Press story said that the team was
treating Robinson and Wright no differently than anyone else. The Sporting
News wrote that there had been no friction between Robinson and Wright and their
white teammates during the early days of the spring season.
Smith and Lacy also wrote that Robinson and Wright had been
accepted by their teammates and had made friends easily. But their columns were
far more personal than their white colleagues. Smith praised the ballplayers for
"their determined bid for sports immortality." According to Lacy, Robinson
wasn't just playing for himself, he was playing for something bigger. "It is
easy to see why I felt a lump in my throat each time a ball was hit in his
direction those first few days; why I experienced a sort of emptiness whenever
he took a swing in batting practice." It's doubtful a white could or would
have written this.
ROBINSON'S FIRST GAME
On March 17, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that Robinson would be in
the starting lineup the next day in a game against Brooklyn at City Island
Ballpark in downtown Daytona Beach. The New York Times also said that
Robinson would play in the game that afternoon. The writer said that the crowd
was expected to include many Northern tourists, who would be sympathetic toward
Robinson. This game would be the beginning of uninterrupted integration in
The Daytona Beach newspaper said it did not know whether Robinson
would play or not. The newspaper gave the history-making game little
attention. Perhaps it did not want to draw any attention to the game for fear of
inciting the segregationists. Whatever the reason, the newspaper kept the issue
at arm's length. For a number of days before the game, there was some doubt
whether Robinson would play. Robinson thought that Daytona Beach would prohibit
him from taking the field just as Sanford had 10 days earlier. But Brooklyn
officials had secured the promises of city officials that the black ballplayers
would be allowed to play.
Brooklyn defeated Montreal, 7-2, yet the score was overshadowed by
the appearance of Robinson, who played error-free ball during five innings at
second base. He went hitless at three at-bats, fouling out twice. In the second
inning, he reached first base on a fielder's choice and eventually scored a run.
The wire services covered the game. Its significance was noted in newspapers
throughout the country. One notable exception was Robinson's hometown paper, the
Los Angeles Times, which published nothing about the game before or after it was
The New York newspapers, however, provided first-hand accounts of the
game stressing the historical significance of the game in the next day's paper,
including references to the size of the crowd, Robinson's grace under pressure,
and his inability to hit a curve ball. The Daily News said that Robinson
made history by becoming the first black to play against a major league team in
a regularly scheduled spring training game. The Daily Mirror said it was the
first time in 50 years that a black played in a game involved two teams in
organized baseball. The Times said the historic game was "seemingly taken in
stride by a majority of the 4,000 spectators." It added that the Jim Crow
section was inadequate and many blacks had to stand behind the rightfield foul
The Associated Press account of the game, which is the one that
appeared in newspapers throughout the country, noted the historical significance
and said that Robinson had been applauded by both whites and blacks. The
Sporting News, however, a national sports weekly, buried the story in a brief,
three-paragraph account in the back of the issue.
The game was nearly a week old before Wendell Smith, who had fought
so long for the integration of baseball, could tell his readers about it. The
world seemed to begin the moment that his friend took the field. "Six thousand
eyes were glued on the mercury-footed infielder each time he came to bat. His
performance with the willow failed to provide any thrills, but, his vicious
swings and air of confidence as he faced real Major League pitcher for the first
time, won the admiration of a crowd that seemed to sense the historical
significance of the occasion."
The black press, in general, focused on the history-making game but
also on the reaction of the crowd. The Norfolk Journal and Guide said it had
predicted that Robinson would be booed by white Southerners but that did not
happen. The Washington Afro-American said that Robinson was applauded during
each trip to the plate. The New York Age said that the game was like any
other except that "one man on the ballfield had a complexion a shade darker than
every other player present."
Robinson's struggles at the plate and field caused concern in the
black press, though it attracted little mention in the dailies. Lem Graves of
the Norfolk and Guide said Robinson obviously was distracted by the team
constantly changing his position. Lacy attributed Robinson's hitting
problems to racial prejudices. He said pitchers were breaking the rules by
cutting the ball to make it curve more. Joe Johnson of The People's Weekly
blamed Robinson weak hitting on nerves and his move to first base and then
second on a sore arm. Johnson's story also included personal insights into
Robinson's life in Daytona Beach. It said that Robinson and his teammates joked
about the high laundry costs and the exorbitant living costs. It also said that
Robinson was staying with Joe Harris, the Negro mayor of Daytona Beach where
"the charming Mrs. Robinson did the cooking."
With the exception of his first day at practice and the March 17
game, most newspaper readers, whether they were in Florida, New York, or
elsewhere, had seen little about Robinson. New York sportswriters were more
interested in reporting the developments of major league teams such as the
Brooklyn Dodgers, not minor league such as the Montreal Royals. In addition,
there was the interest in hundreds of servicemen returning from the war in hopes
of playing professional baseball. And finally, there was the story that the
Mexican Leagues were trying to recruit major leaguers.
The March 19 issue of Look magazine included a profile of Branch
Rickey, who was depicted as the Abraham Lincoln of baseball for integrating
baseball. Dan Parker of the New York Daily Mirror and Jimmy Powers of the
New York Daily News used the article to resume their attacks on Rickey for his
cheapness and called the signing of Robinson a publicity stunt. Powers expressed
his doubts that Robinson would ever play in the Major Leagues. Although
there had been no unpleasantness on the surface, Robinson and Wright were
clearly uncomfortable with the problems and pressures of segregation, Parker
To Wendell Smith, the comments by Powers and Parker typified the
hostility of the white press. Smith responded viciously to Parker and Powers in
two articles in the next issue of the Courier, calling them "smutty," "vicious,"
"putrid," "wacky," and "violently prejudiced." To Smith, there could be no
criticism of any aspect of the segregation experiment. The Washington
Afro-American published an unidentified report that quoted the Mayor's Committee
on Baseball in New York, which had been created to study the integration of
baseball, as calling Powers' column "untrue," "vicious," and "insidious." It
said that Power's thesis that "whites and colored players cannot compete against
each other in sports without the danger of race riot is against the evidence of
well-proved facts." The report only appeared in one newspaper, because it
probably was not true. Powers had doubted Robinson's chances of playing in the
Major Leagues but said nothing about a race riot.
Now that baseball's color line had been broken, the Associated Negro
Press reported that the National Football League would be next. On March 21, the
Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington, a college teammate of Robinson, ending
the league's 12-year ban against blacks. The signing of Washington made the
sports pages throughout the country, but, as with the signing of Robinson months
earlier, it had special significance to black sportswriters, fans, and blacks.
ROBINSON RECEIVES LITTLE ATTENTION
Baseball's next test with integration came March 24 in Jacksonville.
The Florida Times-Union published a story on March 20 that said that in all
probability Robinson would be in the lineup on Sunday for a game with the Jersey
City Giants, the top minor league team of the New York Giants. It said that the
game would likely see the largest crowd in the park's history. But on March
23, the newspaper published a three-paragraph article that said the game had
been canceled because the park was unavailable. This must have seemed
curious to some readers. If the largest crowd in history was expected, it would
have seemed logical to make the park available.
The New York Daily News and other newspapers, however, reported that
the game had been canceled because local laws prohibited games between blacks
and whites. The Associated Press circulated a more detailed account of the
ban, which was published in newspapers throughout the country, including Daytona
Beach and Montreal. The story included comments from officials with the city of
Jacksonville and the organizations involved, including Rickey, who repeated his
contention that he would not defy any segregation laws. The New York Times
reported that Jacksonville had been the first Southern city to officially ban
the black ballplayers during spring training.
The other black weeklies also downplayed the story. The Chicago
Defender published the Associated Press report, while the Norfolk Journal and
Guide published an equally mild piece by the American Negro Press
Association. Joe Johnson of People's Weekly criticized the officials with
the Dodgers and Giants for not supporting the ballplayers more than they
had. The Washington Afro-American published a letter to the city of
Jacksonville protesting its banning of Robinson and Wright. The Pittsburgh
Courier published nothing about the cancellation of the game in Jacksonville, as
he had done about Robinson's trip from California to Florida. His motivations
appeared to be as follows: Baseball's experiment was best served by praising the
successes and suppressing the failures.
Robinson's second game in Daytona Beach drew little attention of his
first two weeks earlier. He was not even mentioned by name in The New York Times
and only in passing in other newspapers. The significance was mentioned only by
the Brooklyn Eagle, which said that the game was important if only for the fact
that Daytona Beach permitted the game to be played. "This liberal community held
no objections to Jackie Robinson playing first base at City Island Park and
Montreal showed its appreciation by beating the Dodgers, 4-3."
Montreal's next road game against Indianapolis was scheduled for
March 25 in DeLand. But it was canceled. Indianapolis said it had a night game
scheduled the following night and needed to test the lights, which required
digging up the cables under the field. The story received little attention
in the nation's newspapers. The United Press noted the irony of a day game being
canceled because the lights were not working. The headline in the New York Daily
News included the pun: "Good Night! Watt Happens Next!" But Fay Young of
the Chicago Defender was not amused. He said that at least Jacksonville had been
honest enough to "come right out with the reason" for banning the players, while
DeLand had the lights as an excuse.
Jacksonville canceled a second game on March 28. The Times-Union of
Jacksonville published a brief article that blamed Montreal for the cancellation
because it had insisted on challenging the city's segregation laws. But
other newspapers criticized Jacksonville. Under the headline, "Rhubarbs abound
in the South," the Brooklyn Eagle told readers how Montreal had gone to
Jacksonville for the game only to find the ballpark padlocked. The article also
included an interview with Rickey, who said that he was more encouraged than
discouraged by the events of the spring. Holmes wrote that Rickey sounded like
someone determined to fight all summer for his cause. "And," he added, "from
what I have observed and from what I listened to in other baseball camps, he'll
probably have to."
This cancellation marked a change in strategy for Rickey, who decided
to openly challenge Jacksonville's segregation laws, and also by the black
press, who became more vocal in their criticism of segregationists. For
instance, the Chicago Defender praised Montreal for its support of Robinson and
Wright. "If Montreal had capitulated and left the Negro players behind, the
setback would have encouraged the obstructionists to close the gates right
against any additional dark aspirants." Meanwhile, the Courier's Smith
called Jacksonville a city "festering from political graft and vice," while
Daytona Beach, by contrast, was "Florida's most liberal and American city."
The next incident came in Sanford, where Montreal went for a game
with the St. Paul Saints. Robinson was allowed to start the game but was ordered
off the field in the second inning by a local police officer. If you wanted to
read about what happened you had to wait until the incident was reported in
Robinson's book -- or live in Montreal. The Montreal Gazette reported that the
ballplayer was removed from the game. Billy Rowe remembered the game but
the Courier mysteriously did not include any mention of it. Lacy had left
Florida by then. The New York press corps was in Daytona Beach with the Dodgers.
Whether they were aware of the incident or not, they did not report it.
On April 6, Montreal's general manager announced that the team had
canceled its final away games of the spring season because city officials in
Jacksonville, Savannah, and Richmond told them that blacks would not be
permitted to appear on the same field with whites. Smith wrote that the games
would have been played as scheduled if Robinson and Wright had been left behind,
but that Rickey had refused to compromise. The Norfolk Journal and Guide
said Richmond was apparently still "the capital of the Confederacy." It also
printed a letter to the owner of the Richmond team that called the decision to
cancel the game insulting and foolish. A brief account on the canceled
games was distributed by the country's wire services.
In Southern California, readers of the Los Angeles Times had a skewed
image of the spring training. In March, the newspaper reported that Robinson
arrived for spring training; the next two stories were terse reports noting that
the games were canceled because of Robinson. But Burdridge of the
California Eagle provided context for his readers by telling them that white
fans were cheering for Robinson, even though some people wanted to keep blacks
in "their places." He predicted that Robinson would be a success, despite the
racism of the South."
Brooklyn expanded its integration experiment on April 5 by signing
catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe from the Negro Leagues. While
the signings received little attention in the mainstream press, the black press
ran extensive profiles of each ballplayer. The signings of Robinson, Campenella,
and Newcombe would be the beginning of uninterrupted integration in the national
pastime. Eventually, it would bring about the end of the Negro Leagues, which
had existed for decades as a separate league for black players, prohibited from
competing in the white leagues.
Different fortunes awaited Wright and Robinson with the Montreal
Royals. Wright struggled, was released, and finished his career in the Negro
Leagues. Robinson, on the other hand, led the International League in hitting
with a batting average of .349. He also led the league's second basemen in
fielding. He made the Brooklyn Dodgers's team the next spring, played more than
a decade in the major leagues, and eventually was elected to the Baseball Hall
of Fame. He died in 1972
The Montreal Royals left Daytona Beach on April 14. As the team
headed north to begin its season, the Montreal Star ran a preview of the team
and its players by position. "The dark Jack Robinson has been pretty steady
around second base." In a story the next day, he also was called
"dark." None of the other players on the team were mentioned by their skin
color. This was fairly mild compared to all that Robinson faced that spring. If
the experiment were to succeed, Rickey told Robinson during their first meeting
that he would have to have "the guts enough not to fight back." While Robinson
ignored the taunts that came his way, the nation's mainstream press ignored the
"Baseball's great experiment," as Tygiel called the integration of
the sport, was "both a symbol of imminent racial challenge and a direct agent of
social change, capturing the imagination of millions of Americans who had
previously ignored the nation's racial dilemma." The drama of baseball's
first integrated spring training is representative perhaps of how the issues of
integration and segregation were covered, or not, by the nation's black press
and mainstream press, respectively.
While the mainstream press gave the story far less attention than it
deserved, the black press realized its importance -- not only to their readers
but to the society as a whole. Unfortunately, black sportswriters, for the most
part, wrote for a relatively small readership that was already convinced of the
need for integration. They had little effect on the population, as a whole,
which read little on racial issues in their sports pages. The Jackie Robinson
drama is one of the most important sports stories in America, but it would take
American society years to understand what had happened in the spring of 1946.
Through a deeper understanding of media coverage of Robinson's first
spring training, journalism history gains a frame of reference for understanding
the criticisms of the Hutchins Report. The Robinson story illustrates the
problems of a society struggling with the realities of integration. And the
story speaks to the depth of the problems we face today in a society still
riddled with racial hatred and limited opportunity. The lessons for journalists
are simple: We should search for news on the edges of society, for the dreams
and struggles and stories not told.
 The term "organized professional baseball" was used to describe
the major leagues and white-dominated professional baseball. Dozens of blacks
played in organized professional baseball in the 1870s and 1880s. The ban on
black ballplayers came as an unwritten agreement by the league's white owners
and managers. See, Robert Peterson, Only the Ball was White (New York:
 Jules Tygiel, Baseball's Great Experiment (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1983); David Wiggins, "Wendell Smith, The Pittsburgh
Courier-Journal and the Campaign to Include Blacks in Organized Baseball,
1933-1945," Journal of Sport History 10 (Summer 1983): 5-28; Donald L.
Deardorff, "The Black Press Played a Key Role in Integrating Baseball," St.
Louis Journalism Review, July/August 1994, 12-14; and Jim Reisler, Black
Writers/Black Baseball (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 1994).
 Deardorff, 12.
 Tygiel, 36.
 Deardorff, 12.
 Wiggins, p. 6.
 Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made (New
York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1972), 41.
 Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith, My Own Story (New York:
Greenberg Publishers, 1948), 56.
 Robinson, I Never Had it Made, 55.
 Ira Berkow, Red: A Biography of Red Smith (New York: New York
Times Books, 1986), 108; Tygiel, 34-35, 44.
 "No Good from Raising Race Issue," The Sporting News, 6 August
 Commission of Freedom of the Press, A Free and Responsible
Press: A General Report on Mass Communication (Chicago: University of Chicago
 William B. Kelley, "Jackie Robinson and the Press," Journalism
Quarterly 53 (Spring, 1976): 137-139.
 Patrick Washburn, "Coverage of Jackie Robinson in His First
Major League Season," unpublished paper presented to the Minorities Division,
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Annual
Convention, Boston, Massachusetts, 1980, 17.
 Ibid., 18.
 The following newspapers were used in this study: The
Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, The Baltimore Afro-American, The
Washington Afro-American, Atlanta Daily World, Norfolk Journal and Guide,
Amsterdam News, The People's Voice, California Eagle, The New York Times,
Brooklyn Eagle, New York Daily News, New York Daily Mirror, New York Journal
American, Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Daytona Beach Evening News, Tampa
Tribune, Orlando Star, DeLand Sun-News, Florida Times-Union; Montreal Daily
Star, Montreal Gazette, The Sporting News; Los Angeles Times, Richmond
Times-Dispatch, Philadelphia Record, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Toledo Blade.
 Reisler, 33-35.
 Interview with Sam Lacy.
 Tygiel, 36, 45-46.
 Interview with Sam Lacy.
 Tygiel, 40-41.
 Ibid., 43-44.
 Daytona Beach Evening News, 30 August 1945.
 Daytona Beach News-Journal, 13 November 1988.
 Interviews with Sam Lacy and Billy Rowe. For background on
Mary McLeod Bethune, see, Catherine Owens Peare, Mary McLeod Bethune, New York:
Vanguard Press, 1951; Emma Gelders Sterne, Mary McLeod Bethune (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1957); Rackam Holt, Mary McLeod Bethune (Garden City, N.J.: Random
 Pittsburgh Courier, 9 March 1946; Tygiel, 101-105.
 The Sporting News, 1 November 1945, 12.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 6.
 Oscar T. Barck, Jr. and Nelson M. Blake, Since 1900 ... (New
York: Macmillan, 1967), 749.
 The Sporting News, 1 November 1945, 6.
 Ibid. The Pittsburgh Courier was arguably the most prestigious
black newspaper of the time. During World War II, it achieved prominence through
a series of editorials and articles aimed at gaining civil rights for blacks
through the Double V campaign: the first V was for victory over Germany and
Japan in World War II, the second V was for victory over racial prejudices in
this country. See, Patrick Washburn, "The Pittsburgh Courier's Double V Campaign
in 1942," American Journalism 3 (1986), 73-86.
 California Eagle, 25 October 1945; Los Angeles Times, 24
 Brooklyn Eagle, 25 October 1945.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 3 November 1945.
 Rowen, 36.
 Interview with Billy Rowe.
 Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 24 October 1945.
 Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 26 October 1945.
 Files of the Daytona Beach newspapers. Interviews with the
 Interviews with the Davidson family and Robert Hunter, former
city editor of the newspapers.
 Daytona Beach Evening Journal, 23 February 1946.
 Tygiel, 99-101; Rowan, 132-136; interview with Rachel
Robinson; and interview with Billy Rowe.
 Interview with Billy Rowe.
 New York Daily News, 3 March 1946.
 Chicago Defender, 9 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 9 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 13 April 1946.
 See Pittsburgh Courier, 16 March 1946. By contrast, there were
no photos in newspapers in such Florida cities such as Jacksonville, Orlando,
St. Petersburg, and Miami.
 Washington Afro-American, 9 March 1946.
 Brooklyn Eagle, 5 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American 9 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 2 March 1946.
 Robinson, My Own Story, 70-74.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 9 March 1946.
 Atlanta Daily World, 12 March 1946.
 People's Weekly, 16 March 1946; interview with Billy Rowe.
 Baltimore Afro-American, 12 March 1946.
 Daytona Beach News-Journal, 29 June 1987; Robinson, I Never Had
it Made, 56; and Tygiel, 107.
 Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, 10 March 1946.
 The Sporting News, 14 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 16 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 11 March 1946.
 Brooklyn Eagle, 17 March 1946.
 The New York Times, 17 March 1946.
 Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, 17 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 23 March 1946; Smith, My Own Story, 78.
 Smith, My Own Story, 78; Robinson, I Never Had it Made, 58;
Rowan, 144-145; and Tygiel, 107.
 The New York Times, 18 March 1946.
 New York Daily News, 18 March 1946.
 New York Daily Mirror, 18 March 1946.
 The New York Times, 18 March 1946.
 The Sporting News, 21 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 23 March 1946
 Norfolk Journal and Guide, 23 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 23 March 1946.
 New York Age, 23 March 1946.
 Norfolk Journal and Guide, 23 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 23 March 1946.
 People's Voice, 23 March 1946.
 Tim Cohane, "A Branch Grows in Brooklyn," Look, 19 March 1946,
 New York Daily News, 12 March 1946.
 New York Daily Mirror, 20 March 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 30 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 23 March 1946.
 Florida Times-Union, 20 March 1946.
 Ibid, 23 March 1946.
 New York Daily News, 21 March 1946.
 The New York Times, 23 March 1946.
 The New York Times, 22 March 1946.
 Chicago Defender, 30 March 1946; Norfolk Journal and Guide, 30
 People's Voice, 30 March 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 30 March 1946.
 Brooklyn Eagle, 24 March 1946.
 Daytona Beach Evening News, 25 March 1946.
 New York Daily Mirror, 26 March 1946.
 Chicago Defender, 6 April 1946.
 Washington Afro-American, 6 April 1946.
 Brooklyn Eagle, 29 March 1946.
 Chicago Defender, 13 April 1946.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 6 April 1946.
 Montreal Gazette, 29 March 1946.
 Interview with Billy Rowe.
 Pittsburgh Courier, 13 April 1946.
 Norfolk Journal and Guide, 13 April 1946.
 See, Los Angeles Times, 5 March 1946; 22 March 1946; and 25
March 1946. However, a two-paragraph story reported that Robinson played April 2
and had two hits in a game against Brooklyn. See, Los Angeles Times, 3 April
 California Eagle, 4 April 1946.
 Montreal Star, 15 April 1946.
 Ibid., 16 April 1946.
 Tygiel, 9.