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Jackie Robinson Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, September 1, 2005


On Tuesday, August 30, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Council Member Robert Jackson, Jackie Robinson Conservancy President David Weaver, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement President Lucille McEwan, Community Board 10 Parks Chair Haja Worley, and 40 kids from Chama Daycare Center to cut the ribbon on renovations to the historic Jackie Robinson Recreation Center. Following a musical interlude Johnny Johnson and the Swingtones and remarks from Benepe, Jackons, Worley, Weaver, and McEwan, the group repaired outdoors to cut the ribbon on the renovations.

With $753,000 in funding from Council Member Jackson, Parks was able to renovate the outdoor playground by installing new playground equipment, safety surfacing, and a tropical-themed spray shower area. Parks also renovated the indoor basketball courts and fitness and weight rooms.

The bathhouse in Jackie Robinson Park was constructed in 1935 as part of the WPA pool program that opened 10 pools in one season. Originally named Colonial Pool, the building was designed by Aymar Embury II. It is a masonry building with decorative bas-relief sculptures and turrets on either end, and a cathedral-like, vaulted main lobby. The building was later named after baseball great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972).

Robinson is legendary for his pioneering role as the first black professional baseball player in the major leagues. He was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919, and raised in Pasadena, California. Robinson’s success was foretold at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he became the first student to earn letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He then played 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. His talent was soon recognized by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who signed Robinson on August 28, 1945 to join the Montreal Royals in the International League. The Royals were the Dodgers’ top farm team.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson made history as the first African-American to play in a major league baseball game. He paved the way for generations of black athletes to compete in America’s national pastime. Professional baseball, however, did not become fully integrated until 1959, when the Boston Red Sox signed Elijah Green.

Robinson went on to lead the Dodgers, as a second baseman, to six World Series appearances. He retired in 1956 with a lifetime batting average of .311. He 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) and a land development firm. He was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as a special assistant to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. Robinson died of heart disease on October 24, 1972, at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut.



"We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas, and not for things themselves."

John Locke

Directions to Jackie Robinson Park

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