When Jackie Robinson arrived to the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947, the world was forever changed. Sports were suddenly opened up to a realm of talent that had not been given the same opportunity before. Thanks to Jackie, baseball, in particular, would venture down a new path, never before ventured.
But with the legacy of Jackie Robinson tends to come some confusion. There are so many stories out there that have passed down from generation to generation so many times, that no one quite knows what’s true anymore. The Dodgers’ legend overcame so many obstacles to play major league baseball, but the details of his everyday life are hard to come by.
The struggles that Jackie faced while playing with the Dodgers are fairly well-documented, but even those do not cover all of the danger and distress he had to face on a daily basis. Another area of Jackie’s life that is less documented, is his departure from the Dodgers and eventual retirement.
At my age, a man doesn’t have much future in baseball and very little security. After you’ve reached your peak, there’s no sentiment in baseball. You start slipping, and pretty soon they’re moving you around like a used car. You have no control over what happens to you. I don’t want that.
Jackie was traded from the Dodgers to the Giants following the 1956 season — a season which Jackie saw a continued decline in playing time and defensive numbers. His decline in play matched up too well with the arrival of stars like Jim Gilliam, who took over Robinson’s second base job in 1953.
This article originally erroneously listed 1947 as the year Jackie was traded, not 1956.
The arrival of young talent and the age of Robinson, paired with growing tension between him and the organization, eventually led the Dodgers into trading him to the rival Giants. The Brooklyn franchise had hoped that Robinson would retire gracefully but reportedly wanted to force his hand.
Unbeknownst to the Giants at the time of the trade, Jackie already had plans to retire from baseball if traded. He had already signed a deal with the Chock Full o’Nuts Coffee company to become the vice president. The Giants tried to change his mind with a $60,000 offer, but the Dodgers’ legend turned the offer down. There were also plenty of rumors about why he turned that down that you can read here.
All of that to say, Jackie Robinson had bigger things in mind that baseball when he chose to retire. It was not the fact that he did not want to play with the Giants, where he could have paired up with Willie Mays. Instead, it was about his financial future and the fact that Jackie was a Civil Rights icon. His focus shifted there, and baseball was left in the rearview mirror.