By In Stuff

Give That Man His Roses

This is a touchy story, one that will likely spark strong feelings no matter where you find yourself standing. Still … my old friend Buck O’Neil would want me to write about it. He would demand it, in fact. I often find myself thinking in various situations: What would Buck do? Or: What would Buck think?

In this story, I have absolutely no doubt.

You may have heard a bit this October about an old ballplayer named Eddie Robinson. He is 96 years old now. And he’s the last living member of the 1948 Cleveland Indians, the last Cleveland baseball team to win the World Series.

Robinson had a lengthy — and sturdy — big league career. He played more than 1,300 games for seven different teams, and he was named an All-Star four times. At his peak, he hit 29 homers and drove in 117 RBIs for the 1951 White Sox. Over his career, he walked (521 times) much more than he struck out (359 times).

But it is his place on the 1948 Indians — when he started all six games and hit .300 in the World Series — that makes small waves of news now. Cleveland is, of course, playing in the World Series. And, so far, the Tribe has not offered to bring him back to Cleveland to celebrate him and that last great team.

This hasn’t been a HUGE story or anything, but it has worked its way around the margins. My old friend in Kansas City Greg Echlin went to visit Robinson in Texas and wrote a story about the whole thing, taking Cleveland to task for snubbing Robinson. “Eddie Robinson prefers to take the high road,” Greg begins his story. He then notes that Cleveland did choose to honor Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga, who played in Cleveland’s last two World Series appearances, 1995 and 1997.

“Uh, excuse me,” he writes, “did the Indians win the World Series in either of those seasons?”

This seems pretty open and shut, right? Numerous others have written the same. Here’s a 96-year-old man who played on the last World Series winner in Cleveland, the one living connection to Lou Boudreau and Bob Feller and Bob Lemon and Joe Gordon and Satchel Paige and Dale Mitchell and Larry Doby and the rest. Why in the world wouldn’t Cleveland bring him to Cleveland and honor him, especially because as Greg notes Robinson still travels — he attended Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium just this past summer.

Open and shut, right?

Well, yes, there are complications.

There is a famous story — two famous ones, actually — that have been told about Eddie Robinson when he was a member of the 1947 Cleveland team. The first was told by Boudreau and confirmed by various others.  On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby showed up in Chicago to join Cleveland and become just the second African-American to play in the Majors in the 20th Century and, more to the point, the first in the American League. Boudreau, as manager, met with Doby and then took him around the clubhouse to meet the guys.

Two players, Boudreau said, refused to shake Larry Doby’s hand. They were both Texans.

One was Les Fleming. The other, alas, was Eddie Robinson.

Of course, you could say, Robinson was just a man of his time. True, he was one of only two to refuse, but his opinion was hardly uncommon in America in 1947. To quote Boudreau: “Later, Robinson told me that he lived in Baltimore during the off-season and his neighbors would not appreciate him being on the same team as a Negro, but that he himself had nothing against Doby.”

Of course, there is also the glove incident, again told by Boudreau and again confirmed by others. Boudreau was not there when it happened but he said that he heard the story from the team’s traveling secretary, Spud Goldstein. Boudreau wanted Doby to get some work at first base — not many people remember this but Doby was a natural second baseman. The Tribe already had Joe Gordon at second. So Boudreau was looking for a good spot for Doby and asked him to take some grounders as a first baseman. Doby did not have a first baseman’s glove. He asked to borrow Robinson’s.

Robinson’s response has been told in different ways through the years. According to the most exhaustive book, “Pride Against Prejudice: The Biography of Larry Doby,” the alleged response was: “No, I won’t lend my glove to no n—-.” Boudreau would only write that Robinson refused to lend his glove to Doby though, bizarrely, he did agree to lend it to Spud Goldstein who then lent it to Doby.

Robinson, years later, would say it had nothing to do with race; he was just upset that Doby, a not-natural first baseman, was being set up to take his job. “I had no animosity toward Larry Doby,” he would say.

But to complete the circle, we should mention one more story from 1946, when Eddie Robinson was playing for Baltimore in the minor leagues. That, of course, was the same year that Jackie Robinson was playing minor league baseball for Montreal. And Jackie would claim that during a game, Eddie Robinson kicked him in the back on a play at second base. “If I did,” Eddie Robinson would tell Joseph Moore, the author of Pride Against Prejudice, “it was an accident.”

All of this was so long ago and in a different America — should it matter? Well, that is the point of this piece, but I don’t think you can have a fair and honest discussion about what Cleveland should do without acknowledging this history. I mean, doesn’t it seem strange that Cleveland wouldn’t happily and enthusiastically honor the last living member of its last World Series winner? Doesn’t their reluctance suggest that maybe there’s more to it? No one from Cleveland has talked about this publicly, but it seems obvious that it plays on their minds.

Robinson has spoken about both Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby in the many years since. In a conversation with the New York Daily News back in April, Robinson talked about facing Jackie Robinson and playing with Doby.

“We played against (Jackie). We saw some of the indignities. I didn’t think it was bad at all. Everybody gives him so much credit, and he deserves it. But I’d like to say that same year, in Cleveland, we took Larry Doby. And Larry Doby, nobody ever mentions his name. He was a very, very good player. As far as the players were concerned, there was some animosity, but not all that much as you might think.”

So what’s right? It’s so hard to tell, so hard to recreate what it was really like almost 70 years ago, so hard to know what inside people, so difficult to separate what’s real and what isn’t. Larry Doby died in 2003, and as far as I know he never made a public statement about Eddie Robinson, but he was involved in in baseball almost until his death and it would not be too surprising to hear that he made his feelings known to close friends.

But it all takes us back to the beginning: What’s right? Well, this is where Buck O’Neil comes in. There is absolutely no doubt  whatsoever what Buck O’Neil would say. Buck dealt with every indignity. He was denied a chance to play or manage in the Major Leagues because of the color of his skin. He knew Doby, played against him, managed against him, worked with him in various roles. He, better than any of us, understands.

And I say with 100% certainty that this is what he would say:

Bring Eddie Robinson to Cleveland. Honor him. Honor the 1948 Cleveland team. Honor history.

How do I know he would say this? Because, in different ways, he said that over and over and over again in his life. He believed that people change. He believed that love conquers hate. He believed that the times tend to blind people — not just bad people but good ones too. In his life, he fought for the Hall of Fame induction of Enos Slaughter, who had numerous racial incidents in his career. In his life, he wanted people to hear the stories of players he knew who had been hateful as young men but had grown to be generous and tolerant — those were, in many ways, his FAVORITE stories.

We don’t know what Eddie Robinson had in his heart all those years ago. And, truth is, we can’t know, not really. There will be some who will say he should not be honored. There will be some who will say he should. And there will be some who say it was wrong to even bring any of this up, it happened so long ago, what difference does it make? Well, it’s history. Eddie Robinson is 96 years old, and like all of us he connects to the past in both good ways and bad. I emailed my dear friend — and Buck’s dear friend — Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League’s Baseball Museum, to ask that question: “What would Buck do?”

“Aw, you know EXACTLY what Buck would do,” Bobby wrote back. “He’d say, ‘Give that man his roses. He was part of something special in Cleveland.”

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63 Responses to Give That Man His Roses

  1. Gabe says:

    Thanks for sharing, Joe. I always love when you write about Buck.

  2. invitro says:

    I’ll be surprised if anyone here says he shouldn’t be honored.

    • SDG says:

      Me too. Honestly, I’m surprised this is a controversy at all. There are a few players from that era whose racism (provable to varying degrees) has overshadowed the rest of their careers. Chapman. Pennock. Arguably Slaughter. You can maybe think of a few more. But is Eddie Robinson in that category? Does anyone remember him at all? Bob Feller was famous for saying Jackie Robinson wasn’t good enough to play in the majors and was celebrated in baseball and throwing out first pitches until he died. (I have no problem with that). But now Eddie Robinson is punished for behaving the way (unfortunately) many people did at the time? What good does that do?

      I don’t understand this at all? I can’t imagine anyone in Cleveland thinking that bringing a 96-year-old man on the field for a few minutes is somehow a sectret coded signal in favour of segregation. What the hell?

  3. Nick says:

    If the HoF can honor those from that era, why shouldn’t Cleveland? A different time and place, let it stir conversation and show how we have grown(or haven’t if that is the case)…..

    • SDG says:

      This post got me curious enough to google and I haven’t seen it suggested anywhere else that Eddie Robinson wasn’t invited due to racism. Or that Eddie Robinson is racist. Or the words “Jackie Robinson” or “Larry Doby” at all. Isn’t it possible they just didn’t think to invite him? Maybe they assumed everyone from that team is dead? They’d be mostly right.

      • Rob Smith says:

        That they didn’t think to invite him is impossible. The Indians are very aware of their own history. It’s not like this is Joe Blow from LA trying to figure out how to honor Cleveland. This is the actual team, with it’s institutional memory intact, figuring it out. The Indians are well aware that they last won in 1948 and are well aware that Robinson is still alive. And they thought about honoring former World Series players. We know that because they invited Lofton and Baerga from the last appearance. They thought about inviting Robinson and decided not to for some reason. Joe is supplying a “possible” reason. It seems like a very likely reason, though certainly it is possible there could be other reasons, as well. But again, the other typical reasons like poor health, inability to travel and even his being some minor insignificant player don’t hold up.

      • MikeN says:

        It doesn’t make any sense. No one said anything when Bill Clinton gave a Presidential Medal of Freedom to a segregationist governor, yet people will complain that a team invited someone from their history to throw out a pitch?

  4. JC says:

    Great take.

    I also believe Cleveland can do this right: realize that men grow up, men learn, men change. God forbid any of us be judged only at our worst moments from our younger days.

    I’m not defending any alleged action at all, but give the man a shot at redemption. Have him walk out onto Progressive Field with Kenny Lofton if you need to.

    • SDG says:

      Agreed. I mean, Ben Chapman participated in baseball events later in life when he was on the field with black players and he was Ben Chapman.

      In general, I don’t like this trend where we comb through someone’s entire life for their worst possible moments and use that to define their whole lives. It’s toxic and leads nowhere good. If I were cynical I would say it’s more about proving you, personally, aren’t racist than actually trying to make the world better.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I don’t think it’s exactly that. The Indians were concerned about inviting Robinson and then seeing headlines that say “Indians invite racist player to headline World Series game”. They have to play out the scenario & be wary of how the press will react. The press reaction might be “wrong” and maybe “unfair” in some ways, but the reality is that they will react & then the Indians will be forced to respond. By not inviting Robinson, and not mentioning it at all, they stay out of the fray. That’s all this is.

        • SDG says:

          I can’t imagine that would be the headline in any remotely mainstream place. This just isn’t common knowledge about Robinson to anyone expect people who really care about baseball history. His racial beliefs are not mentioned anywhere on his wikipedia page. It’s not mentioned on his SABR bio. It’s not something that’s remotely part if baseball lore. Besides, the Indian honored Feller a million times, his animosity to Jackie WAS well-known and no one ever called the Indians racist for it.

          Basically, the only way anyone even knows what Eddie may or may not have done to Larry Doby or Jackie Robinsom is by trying to hunt down a copy of “Pride Without Prejudice” and that’s not easy (I’ve read it. I live in a big city with an excellent library system). How many people have even heard of that obscure academic book? Seriously, who’s doing this? To pick on a 96-year old?

          • Truthteller37 says:

            It’s always white folks that go out of their way to gloss over the misdeeds of other racist whites that are MOST INDIGNANT when the shoe is on the other foot. I hope you are as boisterous in your assertion that all people deserve to be seen wholly and not just white ones. I have a strong suspicion that’s not the case. At best, you are apathetic when it doesn’t suit your narrative.

  5. Phil W says:

    Great story, as usual. But I think you meant “sturdy” in the 4th graf..

  6. rich zwei says:

    As always, eloquently stated.

  7. PS says:

    The reason this piece is perfect is because it addresses both sides of the argument, then arrives at the most generous solution. Brilliant work.

  8. Dale says:

    Excellent piece, Joe.

  9. Luis says:

    I kind of think that the Indians organization has its hands full with the whole Chief Wahoo thing, and why take the chance of creating another racially motivated issue? Businesses are kind of cowards that way, but they are in the business of making money, not the social/moral business.

    I always disagree to any attempt to rewrite or ignore history, as if something didn’t happen. And we should never deal in absolutes, nothing is black or white (pardon the pun).

    • SDG says:

      The best argument for honoring Eddie Robinson (besides, you know, him being the last member of Cleveland’s last winning team until this year) is that baseball can be aware of its past and have shown that we are better than that now. Robinson would be representing the first integrated team to win the Series.

      What better victory can there be over bigotry than the subtle, unstated, acknowledgement that people grow and change? That Eddie Robinson’s former attitude has been so thoroughly beaten down that he has nothing but praise for Doby and the way he felt/behaved before aren’t for polite company? That’s what winning is. That he wants to represent his old team because he’s proud to have been on a team that had Doby and Paige?

      It reminds me of when the US government would have ballplayers in the 50s visit Japan. Some refused to go because of Pearl Harbor, but what greater victory is there than for Japanese people learning American customs and playing America’s game, not because they’ve been forced to or beaten into it but because they want to?

      • Rob Smith says:

        So…. let’s play this out. In order to get the narrative to be one of reconciliation and growth in the area of race, there actually has to be that narrative. Since the story is pretty much unknown to the average fan (I certainly knew nothing of it & I know more than average) you’d have to introduce the narrative to the public & tell the story (and that assumes that there really is a reconciliation narrative to tell besides Robinson saying “I had no problem with Doby”. That’s actually kind of patronizing). Then you’d have to publicize it. Then you bring him to the park. Then you’d have to be concerned that people would reject the narrative and that the press would write negative articles. Then they’d start asking players and Tito what they thought about Robinson being invited. If you’re sitting in the room with the execs walking through this scenario, what would you do? Every person with a brain says “nah, we’re not doing that. Way too risky.”

        • SDG says:

          You’re right. I should have said that’s the narrative in anybody even knows what Eddie Robinson may or may not have done in an International League game in 1946. Which nobody will, because that has never been a part of his reputation. He’s also never had a rep for not welcoming black players, including the history-making one on the Indians team he played for.

          While Dodgers history has always mentioned Hugh Casey and Kirby Higbe and the other players who didn’t welcome Jackie, Doby always refused to say who didn’t welcome him, and none of his teammates ever had any negative fallout.

          Inviting Eddie become publicly about reconciliation only in the highly, highly unlikely event anyone knows anything about Eddie Robinson beyond what’s in his wiki page (hugely unlikely). Otherwise it’s just honoring a very old man.

  10. Alex says:

    Contextualizing and reconciling old attitudes is always a tricky conversation, so I won’t quibble with Joe’s conclusion, but I will nitpick the sentence, “We don’t know what Eddie Robinson had in his heart all those years ago.”

    Robinson was a racist no matter what was “in his heart.”

    Racism isn’t about people’s hearts, it’s about their actions. Whether Eddie Robinson was bigoted to the core or just ignorant, he acted with prejudice and caused harm in doing so. If the Indians honor Robinson, they will be honoring someone with a racist path. Whether or not to do that, as the Hall of Fame has with Tom Yawkey and others, is their decision.

    As Greg Howard wrote in the New York Times recently…

    “Racism” spent the first half of the 20th century in competition with an­other word, “racialism,” though neither featured prominently in our national conversation. Then came the civil rights era, when the word took on for many a convenient new meaning, one that had more to do with the human heart than with practices like redlining, gerrymandering or voter intimidation. In 1964, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama — who just a year earlier promised “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” — explained the clear difference, in his mind, between a racist and a segregationist: “A racist is one who despises someone because of his color, and an Alabama segregationist is one who conscientiously believes that it is in the best interest of the Negro and white to have a separate educational and social order.”

    Soon, nearly everyone could agree that racism was the evil work of people with hate in their hearts — bigots. This was a convenient thing for white Americans to believe. Racism, they could say, was the work of racists. And wherever you looked, there were no racists: only good men like Wallace, minding the welfare of their black fellow citizens, or the segregationist South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, defending states’ rights. Racism definitely existed, at some point — no one was out there denying that slavery had happened — but its residue had settled only in the hearts of the most unsavory individuals. Society as a whole didn’t need reform for the sins of a few.

    • invitro says:

      “it is in the best interest of the Negro and white to have a separate educational and social order” — I wonder if anyone has ever proven him wrong.

        • BearOn says:

          (I’m guessing Invitro was employing sarcasm, Karyn.)

          • Truthteller37 says:

            You clearly overestimate a white man with anonymity on the Internet…

          • MikeN says:

            Who says he’s white? I remember in college a black guy arguing that desegregation was a bad idea. People were shocked, but he was just against the idea that somehow his education is better because he’s sitting next to a white man.

          • invitro says:

            I was mostly hoping for interesting replies, and there have been a couple. I have no doubt that forced segregation, like the kind Wallace was fighting for, and the kind that kept blacks out of MLB, is evil. Voluntary segregation is usually considered evil as well, although it’s making a comeback, I’m sure you fellows have read about California’s new segregated dorm system for its universities. But forced integration is the flip side — I think busing is also evil. And I was also looking for facts, as if Wallace was wrong, to the degree that even daring to suggest he might not be is evil, then it must be easy to -prove- him wrong.

          • invitro says:

            Anonymity makes it a little harder for the lynch mob to find your house.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            How do we actually know that Truthteller is not white?

          • invitro says:

            Well, his name is “Truthteller”. So he can’t be white.

      • shagster says:

        Yes. A few of us did. Though it wasn’t the focus of the research. The numbers showed Wallace’s argument was wrong. That subject discovery is for a different kind of blog. If you really want to research it, start with the ‘Headstart’ education program. That’s a good ‘beginning’ to a lengthy bread crumb trail of info.

        • MikeN says:

          Headstart in research has generally been shown to be useless, with the educational bbenefits disappearing. Not sure what it has to do with race though.

      • Brett Alan says:

        Of course they have.

        Just this past week John Oliver did a segment on the levels of segregation in schools which persists today, and he quoted some pretty conclusive statistics showing that desegregation is hugely beneficial to black students (while not harming white students).

    • SDG says:

      Yes, they will be honoring someone with a racist past. Just like they did all the zillions of times they honored Feller. Do I really need to give a list of all the people in baseball’s bad old days who had unenlightened attitudes and have since been celebrated? Bigotry is (rightly) seen as the modern cardinal sin, but I don’t see what good it does to make a big showy noise of punishing people in perpetuity for the way they felt a long, long, time ago. Will the Indians, or Cleveland, or America, be better off leaving Eddie Robinson in Texas? Will that make anybody less racist? More aware of racism? Or can you believe that this acknowledges Eddie Robinson’s change of heart?

      You’re also being a bit disingenuous because so much of the talk of that era in baseball IS about ferreting out rumors of who was, secretly, a racist, when their actions weren’t obvious at the level of Tom Yawkey. Did the Cardinals/Pirates/Cubs really try to strike? Was every pitcher who threw a beanball racially motivated? Which ones? Etc. And that’s a valuable thing to do from a historical perspective but it does mean that we try, decades later, to divine what was in men’s hearts, regardless of how they behaved.

      • Truthteller37 says:

        Do you go on history blogs and tell Jews not to excoriate Hitler and his Nazi Germany supporters because it was ‘a long, long time ago’? Probably not. Yeah, that’s hyperbole, but it does make my point. Certain white males in America have this ridiculous insistence that they get to be the gate keepers on what is ‘enough’ when it comes to recognizing racism/bigotry/prejudice against people of color in America. It’s tiring to have someone like you talk as if you can decide that because YOU don’t care about what happened, because it didn’t impact you, that there doesn’t get to be a discussion or recognition of these misdeeds in the present day. The abject arrogance is amazing to me all these years later…because it keeps happening. Why don’t you refute that guy up there who asked whether George Wallace was wrong to want to continue segregation…but continue to go out of your way to defend a man who was pointed at as a bigot at the VERY LEAST from his own teammates? SMH

    • Rory says:

      There were approximately 97 congressmen who signed the segregationist “Southern Manifesto” in the mid-1950s. Nothing really happened to them as times changed – more than a dozen were still in office 25 years later, three lasted more than 35 years. Only Thurmond even switched parties, many held leadership positions in Congress. It seems incredibly unjust that these guys who embodied legal segregation got a free pass, while some toothless old ballplayer has the mirror held up to him 70 years later.

      • Rob Smith says:

        It isn’t odd at all. The Congressmen were representing areas of the country that agreed with them. Gradually as attitudes shifted, so did the Congressmen (in many cases). Whether these Congressmen were actual racists or just pandering to their racist electorate is difficult to know. But politicians that want to be elected, do what they need to do. The best example I can give is Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is well known for his championing social causes including equality. He was one of the most outspoken people against South Africa’s apartheid regime (just to name one thing among many). However, he ran a race baiting campaign for Governor 50 years ago that he still hears about & is still written about in Georgia. Was and is Carter a racist? It’s highly doubtful given the company he’s kept for the last 40 years. But as a politician, he wasn’t above playing the race card.

    • MikeN says:

      Even before he apologized, Wallace was getting lots of black votes in his governor races, since he was very good at spending money on them. Even with all the segregation, he was the frontrunner for the Dem presidential nomination in a Gallup poll in early 1983.

  11. Steve says:

    A good sports story makes one think about sports. A great sports story makes one think about more than sports.

    Great story.

  12. Historygeek says:

    I love when you write about Buck because his attitude is something we all should adopt.

  13. Sam says:

    No. To hell with the old racist dude. It is all to rare that these “greatest generation” scumbags who were cruel to others based on the color of their skin are taken to task for it for the rest of their lives and they should be shamed more often. Social progress waited to happen until most of those people were dead.

    And no one should care what kind of epiphany this jackass had once he realized what side history would be on. When it MATTERED, he CHOSE to be cruel and this absolutely should define every second of the rest of his life.

  14. Dave says:

    Good story, and good balanced writing.

    I really don’t know that I have a strong opinion one way or another. But I have a couple of thoughts/queestions.

    The last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945. I wonder who *they* invited to honor?

    I thought MLB had a hand in things. I thought that was a major reason Ricky Vaughn, er, Charlie Sheen didn’t throw out the first pitch. I know he made a, ahem, Major League pitch to.

    But mostly, I think about *this* team and their fans. The recent history (1993-present) at The Jake, two owners, the front office and where they are at now, the generations of fans who have been raised with decades of never finishing better than 4th, along with the latest generation of fans who have only heard from their parents of how great those mid-1990s teams were. I think that THIS is why the players honored (so far) were honored.

    It was only September 18 that one of their beat writers said “the playoffs are over before they began”. As impressed as one should be at their October run, equally impressive is how “prepared” this team is top to bottom. The majority of them had MAYBE one game of playoff experience before this season.

  15. Mark Daniel says:

    I don’t know if Robinson is a changed man. Joe quoted a NY Daily News article from April of 2016, in which Robinson said:
    “We played against (Jackie). We saw some of the indignities. I didn’t think it was bad at all. Everybody gives him so much credit, and he deserves it. But I’d like to say that same year, in Cleveland, we took Larry Doby. And Larry Doby, nobody ever mentions his name. He was a very, very good player. As far as the players were concerned, there was some animosity, but not all that much as you might think.”

    Not all that much animosity? Really? Rampant racism in the 1940s wasn’t all that bad? How can anyone say this with a straight face? This wasn’t a quote from 1948, or 1958 or even 1988. It was from 2016. Eddie Robinson is not a changed man at all.

    But to Joe’s point, Buck O’Neill would have said to honor the last living member of the Indians’ last championship – love conquers hate. So, in that vein, because Buck O’Neill was a great man and Eddie Robinson is (still) a small man, we should take the high road like Buck would, because THAT is what makes the world a better place.

    • shagster says:

      Context. We of this generation don’t know what ‘bad’ was. Night drives were not uncommon in South.

      Not to dissimilar from now, culture was ‘go along get along.’ Few would ”call out’ the bullies. Doing so meant ostracization socially — or worse — property or physical danger to you and those you cared about. Like the line goes, ‘by the time 5-O shows, the dirt has been done.’ So that’s what he meant when he self graded how Doby was handled.

      How many of us are willing to call out that kind of bullying & intimidating behavior now?

      • Marc Schneider says:

        That’s different, though, from actively participating or doing something yourself. I can understand why players from the South would have been reluctant to openly embrace a black player, but that doesn’t mean you have to overtly do something nasty. I grew up in the South and there were lots of people who might not have liked black people, but they didn’t go out of their way to be mean. And Robinson wasn’t playing in the South, he was in Cleveland. I doubt that his neighbors in Baltimore (really a southern city at the time) were monitoring everything he did in Cleveland to make sure he maintained the racial hierarchy. Lots of the southerners from that time period try to sort of whitewash the era by saying it wasn’t that bad and that seems to be what Robinson did. IN part, it’s because they grew up with the racial hierarchy so it probably didn’t seem bad compared to what they knew in the South.

    • Richard says:


      While it is too easy to think that Greg Echlin’s article was what forced the Indians to give Robinson a call, let’s channel our inner Buck O’Neil’s here and say that maybe they DID invite him for Games 1 or 2, but he declined. Perhaps he couldn’t make it those days; or perhaps he told them to go with the young kids for the first two games (let *them* have their roses…..) and he’d be there for Games 6 and 7.

      • Richard says:

        UPDATE: Looks like the Indians simply just forgot to invite him earlier:

        “Indians public affairs executive Bob DiBiasio called Robinson this weekend, at first apologizing for not contacting him sooner.”

        Robinson is being the gentleman, and not holding it against them.

        “He thought he blew it. It didn’t enter his mind,” Robinson said. “They’re taking good care of us.”

        Wouldn’t it be cool if he’s there when the Indians win it all?

        Honi soit qui mal y pense……

        • invitro says:

          Thanks for the link! Funny how facts are always a gust of fresh air, clearing out the stale fumes of rumor and assumption.

  16. Brent says:

    So what this whole controversy brought to mind for me is just how star starved the Indians were from 1954 until the 1990s. In contrast, the Cubs haven’t made the WS for 70+ years, but they have HOFers like B. Williams, Jenkins, Sandberg, and Maddux to call upon to throw out their first pitches, guys from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The Indians don’t have anyone from that era with any gravitas at all to throw out first pitches. They do have some nice players from the 1990s that they have asked to throw out out the first pitch (so far Lofton, Baerga and El Presidente, so Game 7 would be Sandy Alomar?, Jim Thome?, Omar Vizquel?), but nobody from the generation of players that Joe grew up watching (I am sure Joe would love Duane Kuiper).

  17. Brent says:

    And just to follow up my last post, the best player left from the 1954 team that won 111 games is Don Mossi, who was a rookie relief pitcher on that team (a good one too, his WAR was 3.3 in only 93 innings pitched). Of course, I most remember him as the guy with the ears from old baseball cards

  18. MikeN says:

    When I read the first article, I’d assumed Eddie Robinson was black.

  19. […] Sports journalist Joe Posnanski wrote an excellent piece on the possible reasons the Indians were hesitant in extending an invitation for Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland.  Maybe we’ll never know why they didn’t.  The Indians offered no public comment. […]

  20. DSE4AU says:

    I wonder if they invited Eddie or anyone else from that team to the ’95 or ’97 Series. Just curious!

  21. Marc Schneider says:

    I think what people need to remember is that this is not about Eddie Robinson’s life. It’s simply about him being the last living member of the last championship team. Inviting him to the game is not a celebration of his life. It’s fair game to mention the incident, but the only reason he is there is because he was able to outlive everyone else on the team.

  22. MikeN says:

    Well now that they’ve done it, there were people on Twitter, and Mediaite’s Josh Feldman, complaining about a KKK sign at the game.

  23. […] Robinson in a positive manner. Robinson is the only living member of the 1948 team and subject of multiple stories indicating that he strongly opposed playing on the same team as Larry Doby, the first Black player […]

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