Doing the right thing, no matter how small, can have a huge impact for years to come and help change history. That is the case with the decision to let a Jackie Robinson play baseball on a field located here in Daytona Beach, Florida. That one action assisted a chain of events that helped break down the segregation wall in baseball. This one small act assisted a great athlete to have a fantastic career, become active in the civil rights movement and start a foundation that still supports the community today.
The ballpark in downtown Daytona Beach is not just a great place to watch the Tortugas – it’s on the National Register of Historic Places for being the first Florida city to allow Jackie Robinson to play during the 1946’s spring training season. Robinson was playing for the Triple-A Montreal Royals, who were in Florida to play an exhibition game against their parent club, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Both Jacksonville and Sanford refused to allow the game due to segregation laws. Daytona Beach permitted the game, which was played on March 17, 1946. This contributed to Robinson breaking the Major Leagues’ color barrier the following year when he joined the Dodgers. It also started a change locally. The refusal by Jacksonville, previously the Dodgers’ spring training home, led the team to host spring training in Daytona in 1947 and build Dodgertown in Vero Beach for the 1948 season. The park located here in Daytona Beach was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 1989 as the stadium served as host to the first racially integrated game in baseball history. On October 22, 1998, the stadium was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places.
During Jackie Robinson’s baseball career, he overcame unimaginable bigotry and was named Rookie of the Year (1947), Most Valuable Player (1949) and won a World Series title (1955). His .311 batting average, 197 stolen bases and six All-Star game appearances ensured his enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. The father of three continued to push for equality outside of baseball through his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, a leadership position within the NAACP, as an executive for Chock Full O’ Nuts, and through his help in establishing the Freedom National Bank. Jackie Robinson died on October 24, 1972 at the age of 53.
His legacy continues to impact society to this day. The Jackie Robinson Foundation founded in 1973 by his wife Rachel Robinson provides grants and mentoring services for college awarded to minority students. Read more about this great civil rights hero and his foundation here.
Work Webb is located near this historic location and I personally love the history behind the ball park. Support your Tortugas and be proud of the role Daytona Beach, Florida played in ending segregation in baseball. You can see the Tortuga schedule and purchase tickets here.