Features

April 11, 2013

A guide to exploring Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn

NEW YORK — With the movie “42” bringing the Jackie Robinson story to a new generation, fans young and old may be inspired to visit some of the places in Brooklyn connected to the African-American athlete who integrated Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

In Coney Island, a statue portrays Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, the white Dodger who stood by him in the face of racist taunts. At the cemetery on the border of Brooklyn and Queens where Robinson is buried, admirers still leave baseballs and other mementos. And for fans who enjoy irony — or who remain bitter about the Dodgers’ departure to Los Angeles in 1957 — there’s a “No Ball Playing” sign at the housing complex where the Dodgers’ storied stadium, Ebbets Field, once stood.

Joseph Dorinson, author of “Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports and the American Dream,” says it’s no accident that the color barrier was broken by a Brooklyn team. “Jackie made it in Brooklyn, and no other place, because of the multicultural and ethnic diversity here,” he said. That diversity still exists here today.

Here’s a guide to exploring Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn.

STATUE

The life-size statue in Coney Island shows Robinson and Reese arm in arm. It’s inscribed with the story of how Reese, captain of the Dodgers, “stood by Jackie Robinson against prejudiced fans and fellow players ... silencing the taunts of the crowd” during a game in Cincinnati. The statue is located outside MCU Park, where the minor league Cyclones team plays, at Surf Avenue and West 17th Street, near the last stop on the D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island.

HOME AND CHURCH

Robinson lived in several places in Brooklyn before moving to Queens and later Connecticut with his wife and children. On a tidy block in East Flatbush, a two-story brick house at 5224 Tilden Ave. with a rusting fence and peeling paint bears a plaque that states: “The first African-American major league baseball player lived here from 1947 to 1949.” Local officials have started an effort to landmark the house.

Robinson and his wife Rachel also lived for a time at 526 MacDonough St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Although much of the movie was filmed in the South, some scenes were shot on MacDonough because the filmmakers wanted to show the building’s distinctive front stoop, a common feature of Brooklyn homes. The production company used the Nazarene Congregational Church at 506 MacDonough St. for storage and wardrobe while filming, according to Nazarene’s pastor, the Rev. Conrad Tillard.

When Robinson first arrived in New York, he lived for a time with Nazarene’s then-assistant pastor, the Rev. Lacy Covington and his wife Florence. “Church and faith were central to Jackie Robinson’s success,” said Tony Carnes, who publishes an online magazine called A Journey Through NYC Religions.

Nazarene was considered a “mink coat church” at the time, Tillard said, with an educated, affluent African-American congregation. Robinson later came back to the church to “make an impassioned speech about the dangers of drugs,” Tillard said. Robinson’s son, Jack, who’d served in the Vietnam War, was a heroin addict.    

GRAVE SITE

Robinson died in 1972, just a year after his son died in a car accident. They are buried, along with the Covingtons and Robinson’s mother-in-law, in Cypress Hills Cemetery.  “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” reads the inscription on Robinson’s tombstone. Mementos left by fans at the grave include a bat and baseballs, with one ball bearing a handwritten note thanking Robinson “for being an inspiration, strong and courageous.” On a recent day, Ronnie Carvey, Taneisha Beckford and their 3-year-old son were among those stopping at the grave to pay respects, with Carvey explaining to his child that Robinson was a “famous baseball player.”

The cemetery entrance is 833 Jamaica Ave., Brooklyn, near the Cypress Hills stop on the J subway line, also reachable via the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Robinson’s plot is in section 6 on the Queens side of the graveyard, on Jackie Robinson Way near Cypress Road, across from a large stone mausoleum near a low black fence, tall evergreen tree and hedge row. A map can be found at http://nycin60.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/chcmap.png.   

EBBETS FIELD AND WASHINGTON PARK

Robinson retired after the 1956 season. Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, still a much-hated name in parts of New York City, moved the team to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. The park was replaced by an apartment complex at 1720 Bedford Ave., in Crown Heights, where a stone in a wall is inscribed with the words: “This is the former site of Ebbets Field.”

Ron Schweiger, Brooklyn’s borough historian, grew up going to Dodger games at Ebbets Field and met Robinson several times. As a Brooklyn public school teacher, he used Robinson’s story to teach his students about civil rights, even hosting Robinson’s daughter Sharon as a speaker at the school. Recalling a recent visit to the Ebbets Field site, Schweiger said that “if you go up the stairs and into the courtyard, you’d be standing in right field. When you walk closer to the entrance to the building and look at the sign over to the right of the doorway, there’s a sign: ‘No radio playing. No bike riding. No ball playing.”’

Long before Ebbets Field existed, beginning in 1883, Brooklyn’s baseball team played in Washington Park, which is better known as a Revolutionary War site for the Battle of Brooklyn. George Washington’s troops were defeated here in 1776 by the British, who used as their base an old Dutch farmhouse now known as the Old Stone House. After the ballpark was built, the Old Stone House served as a clubhouse for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Washington Park is located at Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope (nearest subway stop, F to Fourth Avenue). Exhibits in the Old Stone House describe its connection to baseball and the Revolutionary War.

Kim Maier, executive director of the Old Stone House, offers a couple of other fun Dodger facts: The team was called the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers because trolleys running along Third Avenue made it tricky to get into the park. And the man who built Ebbets Field started out as a ticket-taker at Washington Park, then worked his way up to control the team. His name was Charlie Ebbets.

 

1
Text Only
Features
  • Le Miz 3 mlh.jpg Do you hear the people sing?

    Sometimes referred to as “the world’s most popular musical,” “Les Miserables,” an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1846 novel, has been performed around the globe in more than a dozen languages for nearly 30 years.

    July 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • Bryan Collins: God so loved

    In John 3:16, Jesus spoke of the Father’s love of the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    July 11, 2014

  • The Rev. G. David Henderson: Those who help also serve Christ

    If the reader wrongly believes Christ can’t use you because you’re too timid to sing, pray, speak publicly, play musical instruments in worship services inside a church sanctuary, today’s devotional will greatly encourage you.

    July 4, 2014

  • New pastor for First Presbyterian

    The Rev. William McMullen “Will” Scott, currently of Indianapolis, Ind., has been called to serve as the pastor of Dalton’s First Presbyterian Church. Scott is only the 19th senior minister to be called by the congregation in the church’s 167-year history. His nomination was approved by the congregation Sunday, June 15, following a yearlong search.

    June 16, 2014

  • Bryan Collins: Men, step up

    On Sunday, our nation will celebrate Father’s Day. The observable differences in the way Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are celebrated could be attributed to several different factors.  Mother’s Day is typically a more sentimental occasion than Father’s Day because our moms are usually a little more sentimental. Moms are typically more nurturing and so we think of them differently than we think of our dads. It is too often the case that moms have to play the role of mother and father to the children.

    June 13, 2014

  • The Rev. G. David Henderson: The powerlessness in aloneness

    God knows the fragileness of every human he has created. The first time God graded something as “no good” within his new creations is when he created the first human, Adam: “It is not good for any man to abide alone” (Genesis 2:18). God then created Eve.

    June 6, 2014

  • DLT play features bluegrass gospel music, comedy

    It is October of 1945, the war is over, and the gospel-singing Sanders family is back together again.

    June 1, 2014

  • O.N. Jonas Memorial Foundation plans for future

    The yearly meeting of the O.N. Jonas Memorial Foundation was recently held and plans for the future were discussed. The foundation (administered by the Creative Arts Guild) began in 1968 with friends of the late Oscar N. Jonas uniting with business, civic and educational leaders to establish an organization that could perpetuate Oscar’s aspirations for the cultural enrichment of all children in northwest Georgia. The foundation sponsors visual, performing and literary arts in Dalton Public Schools, Whitfield County Schools and Murray County Schools, and also Crossroads, Mountainbrook and the Dalton Regional Youth Detention Center. All programs are free to students.

    June 1, 2014

  • Robin Richmond Mason: Sit down for a season but stand firmly on your roots

    Proverbs tells us that a woman can live in such a way that her children will rise up and call her blessed.

    May 10, 2014

  • The Rev. G. David Henderson: Christ-like power from devilish thorns

    Today’s devotional is to the readers who have asked God many times to rid Satan out of their life, but as of yet he hasn’t  removed him. The Apostle Paul also experienced such heartbreaking misery.

    May 2, 2014