October 23, 1945
On this day in Dodger history, Jackie Robinson signed his first professional contract with the Dodgers’ Minor League affiliate club, the Montreal Royals. The Royals were the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate from 1939 to 1960 after scouting the Negro Leagues looking for a potential player, Dodger owner and general manager Branch Rickey had chosen Robinson and put him through an extensive interview.
Rickey wanted to make sure that Robinson would understand what he would face and that he couldn’t retaliate in any way. When the interview was over, Rickey decided to commit to signing Robinson away from his Negro League team, the Kansas City Monarchs. The signing wasn’t yet official and Robinson had to keep it a secret until it was formally announced.
On October 23, 1945, Rickey announced that Robinson would join the Royals for the 1946 season and Robinson officially signed his first professional contract. Rickey, as well as representatives for the Royals, were on hand for the signing.
Robinson would play the 1946 season with the Royals before becoming the first African American player in the major leagues in 1947 when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
His play in 1947 earned him the inaugural Rookie of the Year award in the Major Leagues and he went on to play for the Dodgers until his retirement. In 1962, Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame.
His number 42 has been retired around baseball, with Yankee closer Mariano Rivera being the last to wear it this season. Every year on Jackie Robinson Day, every player in the majors wears 42 in honor of Robinson.
Here’s a short video about Robinson’s career: