Did you know that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball right here in New Jersey?
Roosevelt Stadium at Droyer’s Point in Jersey City hosted high-minor league and major league baseball games along with boxing matches, musical acts, high school football games and soccer matches. On April 18, 1946, Roosevelt Stadium hosted the minor league baseball team Jersey City Giants’ season opener against the Montreal Royals, marking the professional debut of the Royals’ Jackie Robinson and the first time the color barrier had been broken in a game between two minor league clubs.
Warren Sandel was the starting pitcher for the Giants that day. Sandel played against Robinson when they both lived in California. During Robinson’s first at bat, the Jersey City catcher, Dick Bouknight, demanded that Sandel throw at Robinson, but Sandel refused. Although Sandel induced Robinson to ground out at his first at bat, in his five trips to the plate, Robinson ended up with four hits, scored four runs, drove in three, and stole two bases in the Royals’ 14–1 victory.
Robinson led the International League that season with a .349 batting average and .985 fielding percentage, and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Although he often faced hostility while on road trips (the Royals were forced to cancel a Southern exhibition tour, for example), the Montreal fan base enthusiastically supported Robinson. Whether fans supported or opposed it, Robinson’s presence on the field was a boon to attendance; more than one million people went to games involving Robinson in 1946, an amazing figure by International League standards.
Unfortunately, historic Roosevelt Stadium was demolished in 1985.
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