There were more Dodgers fans than Pirates fans at that last game that Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers. There was no bigger fan than my father.
We were Beantown transplants so it was especially disloyal of my father to root for number 42 on that sultry day. But root he did.
Dad had met Mr. R (as he liked to call him) on a train going from Columbus OH to Pittsburgh PA in 1948 when Mr. R was playing for the Dodgers. He got to sit down because of my Dad.
Desegregation and separate but equal are no secret now. In 1948 they were very alive on trains running along the East Coast.
Dad was sitting in a seat when Mr. R came aboard with his team. The conductor went to seat him next to his teammates when the engineer, a short, fat, angry man, rushed up and started yelling chapter and verse of the separate but equal law.
“You could see that Mr. R had heard it all before,” Dad used to say. “He just quietly started to move off the coach”. That’s when my Dad stood up, all 6’5” of Boston lawman, and said very quietly, “Mr. Robinson will be sitting next to me on this trip today.” The little engineer got very red, spun on his heels and raced out of the carriage.
Dad said he enjoyed the quiet company of the man who was one of baseball’s Best. They chatted about ball, and weather. Neither mentioned the little red engineer who couldn’t!
Dad passed away from Parkinson’s 5 years ago. He was a fan of the game til the end.