Monday 3 December 2012

Jackie`s Gift


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A Jewish boy befriends the new black family in his neighbourhood of Brooklyn.  He helps them put up their Christmas tree and in return the neighbour surprises him with a tree, not knowing that he celebrates Hanakkah.  In the end his family graciously accepts the tree, a gift from the all time great second baseman, Jackie Robinson.

Jackie, the son of Georgia sharecroppers, was the fifth of five children.  Raised in poverty, his father left the family in 1920 and they moved to California.  Jackie strayed for a short time, even joining a gang.  But it was sports which helped get him back on track.  Part of an athletic family, Jackie`s brother had received a silver medal at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.  Jackie showed promise in baseball, basketball, football and track, all of which he lettered in at U.C.L.A.

The Second World War put Jackie`s football career on hold.  When the war ended, he signed up with the Montreal Royals minor league franchise.  Then, in 1946, Jackie was the first black player to sign with a major league team since the 1880`s, when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.  All black players had been relegated to the Negro leagues during this period.

As a newcomer to New York City, his family moved into the white neighbourhood of Brooklyn.  Many residents did not want a black family on the block, but one boy, an avid fan of Jackie`s, befriended him.  The boy helped the Robinson`s put up their Christmas tree that first year.  And Jackie returned the favour by purchasing a Christmas tree for the family, not knowing they were Jewish.  But the Satlow family, keeping in mind that their grandparents had emigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution, accepted the kind gesture.

In the meantime, with number 42 on his jersey as a Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie received the Most Valuable Player award in 1949.  He played in six World Series and he helped win the 1955 World Championships.  The second baseman retired in 1956 and went on to be the first black T.V. analyst as well as the first black Vice President of a major corporation.

And to think that Jackie`s Dodger days started in a humble house in Brooklyn with a Christmas tree and a kind boy who just wanted to welcome him to the neighbourhood.


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