maybe the first
black to star
Firstly, Robinson was not the first black ballplayer to star in Montreal at Delorimier Downs.
While the Montreal Royals were playing a road game on June 3, 1945, the Philadelphia Crawfords and the Pittsburgh Hilldales a pair of negro league baseball teams from Pennsylvania, attracted an impressive crowd of 8,000 to Delorimier Downs for an exhibition game swept by the Crawfords.
The fans were said to be thrilled and delighted as the Philadelphia squad swept the exhibition twin-bill, with Joe Atkins winning a jackpot of $5 for hitting a double.
The event was surely a sort of test to see how Montreal would welcome black ballplayers and it went off stunningly as the fans enjoyed the tilt with great enthusiasm.
Another sometimes-forgotten fact is that the Expos..err. I mean Royals, had more than one black player. At least that was the plan. So when they went to play a spring training game in Daytona, the city authorities banned not only Robinson but they also banned Johnny Wright, his teammate.
Wright was a pitcher who didn't last long with the team, as his curveball wasn't breaking and his fastball wasn't that great. He was quickly sent one rung lower to the Three Rivers club.
In the Spring of 1946 the Royals were told by George G. Robinson of the Jacksonville Playground and Recreation Commission that the city would not allow them to play there due to a local ordinance preventing blacks from playing with whites.*
Newspaper reports differ in the Royals' response, while some said that the Royals offered to play without the two black ballplayers, another more detailed report quoted the Montreal GM as saying that he'd happily skip the spring training tilts altogether.
When Montreal GM Mel Jones phoned to discuss the matter, the Jacksonville official reportedly hung up on him without offering an explanation.
I have read that several other cities also banned the Royals from playing but haven't found that confirmed in the newspapers of the day.
|Johnny Wright, would've been|
there if his curveball
was breaking better
There was talk sometime later that Jacksonville would apologize to Robinson's widow, but we're not sure if they ever did. We think Jacksonville also owes Montreal an official apology over the incident of 65 years ago.
In December 2012 Montreal unveiled another Robinson plaque at the home where Robinson lived in Montreal at 8232 de Gaspe, just North of Jarry. We had previously been told by Isadore Don Albin, a local reporter who was the first to go interview Robinson at his home, that the apartment was lower on De Gaspe near to Laurier.
Robinson graduated to the majors quickly but a new rising black ballplayer would arrive the next year in the form of Roy Campanella, he'd soon move up to Brooklyn to become a star catcher before getting paralyzed in an accident. Onetime 30-game winner in the Negro Leagues, Don Newcombe would play for the Montreal Royals in 1948 and part of 1949 before being brought up to become a star pitcher in the bigs.
*Similarly around the same time a white man pitching for a Negro League team was banned from playing in Birmingham.