After today’s “You Could Look It Up” went live, my BP colleague Jay Jaffe reminded me that I had left out a key fact about Preacher Roe: that despite being a Southerner, and unlike other Southerners on the Dodgers, he had no problem playing with Jackie Robinson. When Jay brought that up, I looked sadly down at my notes. There it was–in my haste, I had passed it by. Let me give you my favorite part of that story, courtesy of Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer. Roe remembered:
A few times people come up to me in the winter and said, “Say, Roe. If you’re gonna go up there and play with those colored boys, to hell with ya.” But very few. I always said, “Well, if that’s how you feel, I considered the fellers I play with, I considered your remark, and to hell with you!”
There’s also this very fine remembrance of Branch Rickey:
Mr. Rickey said, “Remember, it isn’t the color of a man’s skin that matters. It’s what’s inside the individual.” And he said some of the people with the whitest skins would be the sorriest I’d meet and some of the darkest would be the best. That was 1938. I know now that Rickey had in mind breaking the color barrier almost ten years before he did. I respect him for that, and I went through my career with that respect always in mind.
I well know that Rickey was no saint. He was a hardened businessman who was not above pettiness in his dealings. I also know that his motives in breaking the color line had an economic component. That said, I’d like to see a statue of him and Jackie somewhere on the National Mall.