"Honestly, I was stunned. I felt the way I did when Shirley Temple got married. I just couldn't believe that many years had passed, that she was that old. It was the end of something, the end of an era. Well, it's that way with this thing. It seems impossible that Robinson has played 10 full seasons with Brooklyn, and that it's all over. Honestly, I can't believe it. I can't realize it...."
Thus spoke last week a mature man, a man who follows baseball, a man who cheers for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Others felt differently about Jackie Robinson, symbol of Brooklyn baseball, and the fact that he'd been traded from the Dodgers to the New York Giants, the very symbol of Dodger enmity. Some were stunned. Some, Dodger fans and Giant fans alike, hated it. Some, mostly Giant fans, loved it. But few failed to react in amazement to the startling news that exploded on the relatively quiet winter baseball scene—news that seemed to transcend baseball and reach the proportions of a major sociological event.
Metropolitan newspapers carried banner headlines across the top of the front page, relegating Hungary and Suez to less conspicuous columns beneath. The New York Times even ran an editorial pointing out that "Robinson is a national symbol."
For Robinson himself, it was a hectic time. E.J. (Buzzie) Bavasi, vice-president of the Dodgers, had been trying to get in touch with him. According to Milton Gross, of The New York Post, Jackie had said to his wife, Rachel, "There's either a trade for me or else there's a spot for me to manage."
December 24, 1956
He phoned Bavasi from a telephone booth in New York, where he and Mrs. Robinson were spending the day. When he came out of the booth he told Rachel, "I've been traded to the Giants."
His, wife, astonished, could not speak. Later, as they drove back to their home in Stamford, Conn., they reacted like most intelligent, considerate parents would. They thought of their oldest boy, a Dodger fan of 10. A Laraine Durocher or a Kay Maglie or a Rachel Robinson can take a deep breath, think things over rationally, and switch her baseball allegiance, even radically—as from Brooklyn to New York, or New York to Brooklyn. But to a boy of 10 a baseball allegiance is as real as allegiance to one's country, and it is to the great credit of Rachel and Jack Robinson that they realized this and broke the news to their son as gently as they could. Even so, there were tears.
Next day, with young Jackie and his sister Sharon in school, the press descended on Stamford. Photographers took pictures of the Robinsons with their youngest child, 4-year-old David—happy pictures, smiling pictures. David was smiling because of all the excitement of the photographers, and his parents were smiling because of David. In time, of course, Rachel and Jack will accept the whole idea of Giants-instead-of-Dodgers as easily as David does now. So will Sharon. And maybe even young Jackie will too.
On the other hand, young Jackie may decide to show the independence of Jack Tighe's 10-year-old son. Tighe is the personable new manager of the Detroit Tigers. A year or so ago, when Jack was a Tiger coach, his son Bobby met Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees. It was a casual meeting, but a few days later Tighe and his son bumped into Yogi again. You could excuse a man for forgetting a child's name in such a situation, but without hesitation Yogi greeted the boy.
"Hi, Bobby," he said warmly, like an old friend. It was love, or at least hero worship, at first sight.
Well, time passes, and Jack Tighe was promoted to manager of the Tigers. His son, naturally, was immensely proud and pleased. But, Tighe reports with rueful pride, the boy's face grew serious and he cautioned his father: "Dad, just one thing. Don't think this is going to make me stop rooting for the Yankees."