Before Martin Luther King, Jr. had the opportunity to significantly impact and alter the course of civil rights and United States history, a trio of baseball players led a similar change in baseball.
Beginning with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1945, and including Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe in the years that followed, the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier that once existed. Robinson debuted with the Dodgers in 1948, Campanella in 1948 and Newcombe in 1949, all before King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in 1963.
While still important, the impact the trio of Dodgers had on sports can’t be compared to King’s influence and impact. Nonetheless, King credited Campanella, Newcombe and Robinson for laying the ground work and making King’s mission easier, as told by Newcombe in a post on the Dodgers’ Instagram account:
“In 1968, Martin had dinner in my house with my family. […] He said to me, ‘Don, I don't know what I would've done without you guys setting up the minds of people for change. You, Jackie, and Roy will never know how easy you made it for me to do my job.’ Can you imagine that? How easy we made it for Martin Luther King!” –Don Newcombe via @time. #MLK