Post Author – Benjamin Epstein
Title – Jackie Robinson: Signing Major League Contract with Rickey
Date – February, 1948
Format – Photograph
Source – Encyclopedia Britannica
URL – http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/113946/Jackie-Robinson-shaking-Branch-Rickeys-hand-after-signing-his-first
After our discussion regarding race and social structure last class I thought of this photo that I had seen during a baseball literature class last year. In the photo, Jackie Robinson is shaking Branch Rickey’s hand as Robinson signs his contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first time a black player is signed to a Major League Baseball team. I am always inspired to see this photo as it is one of the most famous photos of baseball during the pre-integration/integration era. As I perceive it, this photo depicts a very happy and enthusiastic Rickey as he knows he is purposely contradicting the social norms of the sport during the time period, while Robinson looks a little hesitant and unsure as he weighs the tradeoff of being the first pro black player in the league with higher pay and national fame, with the knowledge that a high percentage of the baseball fans he will come across as his team travels the country will relentlessly mock, ridicule, demean, and even assault him. The contrast between the visual expressions exhibited by the two as well as the contrast between Robinson’s more casual attire and Rickey’s more formal attire show an already visible distinction between the two personas. This photo is very significant in baseball due to the fact that the very signing of this contract stirred so much controversy in the sport yet led to the full integration of non-white players into the Major Leagues.