Jackie Robinson Park Playground

Jackie Robinson Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Located on Reid Avenue between Chauncey and Marion Streets, this park honors Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), the first African-American Major League Baseball player. Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, and raised in Pasadena, California. Robinson's athletic prowess became evident at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he became the first student to letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Robinson played professional football for the Los Angeles Bulldogs before serving in the army during World War II.

After the war, Robinson played baseball in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs, where he caught the eye of Branch Rickey (1881-1965), general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey signed Robinson on August 28, 1945 to join the Montreal Royals, the Dodger’s Triple-A affiliate in the International League. For two years, Robinson toiled in the minor leagues. On April 15, 1947, Robinson made history as the first black to play in a Major League baseball game, paving the way for generations of black athletes to compete in America's national pastime.

Renowned as a top-notch second baseman and a fierce competitor, Robinson led the Dodgers to six World Series appearances. He retired in 1956 with a lifetime batting average of .311, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson then became involved with the Chock-Full-O' Nuts restaurant chain, as well as a number of black-owned community enterprises such as Freedom National Bank, which he co-founded. He also became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as a special advisor to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979). Robinson died of a heart attack at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1972.

In 1954, the City of New York acquired the property for this playground, and the Board of Education assumed control over the site. Five years later, jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education, the park opened as the Public School 21 (Crispus Attucks School) Playground. In 1970, as the Board of Education looked to expand P.S. 21, Parks relinquished its control over P.S. 21 Playground. That same year, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) developed a new one-acre playground on the block, which later incorporated a 0.6-acre portion of the old P.S. 21 Playground. In 1981, the Department of General Services assigned this 1.607-acre playground to Parks. Parks, in turn, designated the property Jackie Robinson Park to recognize the work of the local Jackie Robinson Development Corporation at the park.

In 1988, Jackie Robinson Park underwent a comprehensive renovation. Four new tennis courts replaced its large baseball field, and the existing basketball and handball courts were resurfaced. New chain-link steel fencing, a new lighting system, and new drinking fountains and benches were also installed. Today, Jackie Robinson Park is not only a welcome place for sport and recreation, but also a fitting tribute to a courageous individual and stellar athlete.

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