Sixty years after Walter O’Malley traded Robinson to the arch rival of the Dodgers, the New York Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers will erect a statue to honor Jackie Robinson.
California-based sculptor Branly Cadet will create the Robinson statue ,which will be ten feet tall, around the theme, “Leveling the Playing Field.”
With the help of Branch Rickey, back then the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 as he debuted with the Brooklyn club. Robinson would face racial slurs, abuse and intimidation in his first year. Even some team mates refused to play with him on a team and asked for a trade.
After Walter O’Malley obtained a majority control over the club, he ousted Branch Rickey and bought his share giving himself more than fifty percent of the shares. The relationship between Robinson and O’Malley never was very good. In December 1956 Walter O’Malley ordered his GM, Buzzie Bavasi to trade him to the Giants. According to Bavasi, this was an act of vengeance. In his biography, Robinson described O’Malley as “viciously antagonistic.”
To me it appears weird that the club that traded away Robinson is now honoring him. The club that still puts O’Malley on a pedestal is not even showing Robinson’s number in the way they should. In all other MLB stadiums Robinson’s number is shown in a different color than their own retired numbers. Guess what? So it is in Dodger Stadium. In my opinion it should have been shown in the same colors like Pee Wee Reese’s and Duke Snider’s number, even though Robinson never played in Los Angeles, like Reese and Snider did. In my opinion this shows that the Dodgers are ignoring their Brooklyn past.
I really have mixed feelings about this. Sure Robinson deserves a statue, but does it really has to be at Dodger Stadium? The club hardly celebrates its Brooklyn past around the playing field, except for the one sign attached to the upper deck in the right field stands (just below the windows of the Dodger Stadium Club), that shows the Brooklyn Dodgers’ World Series win in 1955. For the rest only photos at the interior and a display in the VIP restaurant inside the stadium. None of this is visible to the average fan except when you take the tour in Dodger Stadium.
If there is one place where a statue of Robinson belongs, it is at the baseball stadium of UCLA that is named after Robinson. In fact the university erected a statue for the multi sports star at the stadium in 1985. Robinson excelled in football, track and field, basketball and baseball when he attended UCLA.
Another place where a statue of Robinson belongs is Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Cyclones did unveil a statue outside the stadium of Pee Wee Reese embracing Robinson, which allegedly happened in 1947 in Cincinnati during a game vs the Reds. Perhaps the place is a bit unjust as the Cyclones are not a Dodgers affiliate.
In Daytona Beach there is also a statue erected for Robinson. In front of the stadium that was named after him, the city of Daytona placed this statue to commemorate the day that Robinson played hisfirst spring training game in Florida with the Montreal Royals vs their parent club the Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact Daytona Beach was the first Floridian city that allowed him to play a game with his white team mates.
Last but not least, there is one place where a statue of Robinson should be erected: Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, the former spring training facility of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Robinson spent several spring trainings at the site.
Since Robinson never played at Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers traded him to their hated rivals (without knowing that he was about to retire) and since the Dodgers hardly celebrate their Brooklyn roots (except when they can make money out of it), I really have my doubts about Dodger Stadium being the right place for a statue to honor the famous nr. 42.