“I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people.”
-Letter from Jackie Robinson to President Eisenhower of May 13, 1958
After he retired from Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson went on to champion the cause of civil rights from his position as a prominent executive of the Chock Full o’Nuts Corporation.
Robinson had grown increasingly impatient with what he regarded as President Eisenhower’s failure to act decisively in combating racism. In this letter dated May 13, 1958, he expresses his frustration and calls upon the President to finally guarantee Federal support of black civil rights.
Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. This decision would not only integrate baseball, but would help the country work to achieve equal rights for all. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., once commented to baseball pitcher Don Newcombe, “Don, you and Jackie will never know how easy you made my job, through what you went through on the baseball field.”
Before becoming famous, Lt. Jack R. Robinson was court-martialed at Camp Hood, Texas, because he refused to move to the back of the bus after being told to do so by a bus driver and disobeying an order from a superior officer. Robinson was acquitted of all charges and received an honorable discharge, but this was not the only experience he would have in fighting discrimination.
After retiring from baseball, Robinson turned much of his attention to civil rights issues. He wrote to several Presidents about the cause, and even attended the March on Washington.
Many of these milestone events from Robinson’s life are documented in primary sources from the National Archives.
While we’re still reeling from the National’s Opening Day victory, we wanted to share this awesome new (free!) eBook from the National Archives.
“Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Archives” tells the story of baseball in America through documents, photographs, audio, video, and other records preserved at the National Archives. Chapter 9 “Saving the Integrity of the Game” features records from congressional hearings during the steroid era.
The book can be downloaded for free on your iPhone, Android, iPad, and eReaders, so check it out!
President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw out the first pitch at a game between the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1934.
Discover more baseball stories in our new, free eBook, Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Archives. Download it for free on our eBooks page or on iTunes.
You can also learn more about the history of Presidents and baseball on the Prologue blog and at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak.
Today is Opening Day in DC and all eyes are on the Nationals, especially their new mascot based on William Howard Taft. Taft is being celebrated as an addition to the ‘Presidents Run’ not only because he was an accomplished statesman and President, but because he is recognized as the first president to ever throw out a ‘first pitch’ on Opening Day, April 11, 1910.
Though the game is mostly remembered for Taft’s first pitch, Walter Johnson was the star, pitching within one hit of a no-hitter for Washington. Frank ‘Home Run’ Baker (who earned his nickname the following year with two dramatic home runs in the World Series) was the one batter to luck into a hit off of Johnson that day. In the fourth inning, Baker came to bat and lined a foul ball towards the President’s box. Though the ball missed Taft, it careened into the adjacent box, narrowly missing Vice President James Sherman before hitting Secretary of the Senate Charles Bennett in the head. Luckily for all involved, the ball “had spent its force when it landed in the box,” leaving everyone uninjured. Later reports and references to the incident, though, incorrectly refer to Bennett as the Secretary of State (and report that he was knocked out!).
As Secretary of the Senate, the chief legislative officer in the Senate, Bennett helped to usher the Senate into the modern era. In doing so, he was one of the first to collect and publish the various procedures of the Senate into a concise guide for Senators. He also enjoyed frequent outings to Boundary Field, and then National Park (later Griffith Stadium), to watch baseball.
Though no mascot of Bennett will be around during this year’s opening day game, their story reminds us all to watch out for the foul ball!
Will the Base Runner Start for Third? by Clifford Berryman, 8/17/1906, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6010644)
(of course that’s Teddy debating whether to break for third, but it looks like Taft is visible as one of the potential hopefuls in the stands.)
Get ready for Major League Baseball’s 2013 Opening Day with a new, free eBook from the National Archives!
“Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Archives” tells the story of baseball in America through documents, photographs, audio, video, and other records preserved at the National Archives.
The book can be downloaded for free on your iPhone, Android, iPad, and eReaders.
Learn about the two world wars, contract disputes, civil rights, equal access and opportunity on and off the playing field, the steroids era, Presidential involvement, improvements to the sport, Little League, Opening Day, and more.
(Today’s Document may be quiet the rest of the afternoon as we’re off to see the Nationals take on that expansion team from the Bronx. Go Nats!)
Babe Ruth and George Bush
On January 29, 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members. Among the five men was Babe Ruth, seen in this photograph taken in 1948, donating the manuscript of his autobiography to Yale.
The young man in uniform is the captain of the Yale baseball team and a future President. George H. W. Bush was an older college student—he had delayed going to college and joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“On the ninth day of Archives an archivist brought to me:
nine Metlakahlta baseball players
Eight Navy officers
seven of Mrs. Hicks’s eight children,
six tiny thorn carvings,
five sisters from Alaska,
four boys hanging out at the Fletcher aircraft school,
three happy girls at a West Virginian celebration,
two San Francisco children painting,
and one astronaut in space.”
Image: “Metlakahtla Baseball nine.” ARC Identifier 297658
Jackie Robinson Court Martialed
This general court-martial order number 130, Headquarters XXIII Corps is from the official military personnel file of Jack “Jackie” R. Robinson. The order addresses his disrespect to an officer and disobeying the command of an officer.
General Court Martial Orders Number 130, Headquarters XXII Corps, 08/23/1944
Robinson* was ultimately acquitted of all charges.
*Edited 8/23/2012 to change the name Johnson to the correct, Robinson.
President John F. Kennedy attends the 32nd All-Star Baseball Game, throws out first ball.
Speaker of the House John W. McCormack, Dave Powers, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Kennedy, Commissioner of Baseball Ford. Washington, D.C., D.C. Stadium, 07/10/1962.
-from the JFK Library
Look carefully at those catcher’s mitts in
tomorrow’stonight’s All-Star Game! Their design was hotly contested in court over 100 years ago, and we have the records in the National Archives at Kansas City.
From 1885 to 1895, over a dozen catcher’s mitts were patented through the U.S. Patent Office. This one was by patented by E.L. Rogers, who had two patents for catcher’s mitts.
This patent was used when Victor Sporting Goods sued Rawlings:In the complaint filed by Victor Sporting Goods, the Rogers brothers claim that Elroy L. Rogers was the “original and first inventor of a new and useful improvement in Catcher’s Gloves.” The complaint also indicates that no other inventor has been in possession of the patent and that the ownership paperwork was filed with the U.S. Patent Office. In addition, Victor Sporting Goods claimed that Rawlings was profiting from the patent by manufacturing gloves using the model created by Rogers.
What did the courts decide? Read the blog post and find out!
Baseball fans, don’t miss a fascinating exhibit of baseball documents from our holdings now on display at the National Archives in Atlanta! We are showing selected documents and exhibits from a civil court case where the maker of the “Louisville Slugger” baseball bat sued a Georgia bat manufacturer.
Image above: U. S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division, Equity Case Files, July 1926-March 1937, Case #72, Hillerich and Bradsby, Co. versus Hanna Manufacturing, Co.