Jackie Robinson at Dodgertown

May 6, 2013

The new movie “42” tells the story of how Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.  The number 42 was on his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.  The movie ends before the conversion of a naval air station in Vero Beach into Dodgertown – the team’s spring training camp for 60 years.  In the exhibition game played at Dodgertown’s dedication in 1948, Robinson hit a home run.  Then the future Hall of Famer trained here until he retired in 1956.  When Dodgertown opened, segregation was the rule in Florida and throughout the South.  Vero Beach, with a population of about 3,000, was virtually all-white.  Robinson and the other black players who came soon after him and their wives were not welcome in Vero Beach beyond Dodgertown.  To eat out or see a movie or visit a beauty parlor, they had to take a so-called “colored taxi,” actually an old bus, to Gifford, the predominantly black community to the north.  Some Vero Beach leaders wanted the integrated Dodgers to leave – until they realized how much money spring training brought to the city.  Yes, Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, but the color barrier around Florida’s spring training camps remained unbroken for years after that.  For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.