Brooklyn Heights

Jackie Robinson’s signed contracts to be on temporary display at the New-York Historical Society

April Marks the 69th Anniversary of the Integration of Major League Baseball

April 12, 2016 By Ula Ilnytzky Associated Press
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) became the first African-American to play major league baseball after Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey chose him to integrate baseball. AP Photo

Jackie Robinson’s contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers that broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier is on public view in New York and soon in other places, as well.

The April 11, 1947, document, together with a contract Robinson signed two years earlier with the Montreal Royals, is on display at Collectors Cafe, a new collectibles auction venture in Times Square.

On Friday, April 15 (Jackie Robinson Day), the documents will move to the New-York Historical Society, where they will be on view for one week before going on a tour of other cities. The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at 77th Street.

“For us, the significance of the contracts is that these are the documents that ushered in a whole new era in sport history in this country,” said Michael Ryan, vice president and librarian of the New-York Historical Society. “One of the themes that run through our program here is civil rights, abolitionism, slavery … so this is right in line with our mission.”

The contracts were acquired by Collectors Cafe founder and CEO Mykalai Kontilai in 2013 and valued at $36 million by Seth Kaller, an expert in American historic documents.

“By actually signing this document, Robinson changed history, and therefore it gets valued among the most treasured, the most valued, American documents,” Kaller said. “This is miles beyond any other Jackie Robinson document. There’s no sports document I can think of that approaches this in its importance and value.”

Kontilai said the contracts were acquired from the estate of a New York-based private collector.

Collectors Cafe “sees this as a responsibility to tour them and make them available to the American people,” Kontilai said.

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After New York, the contracts will be shown this month at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. They will also travel to venues still being worked out in Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Washington, D.C.

Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) became the first African-American to play major league baseball after Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey chose him to integrate baseball. Facing antagonism both on and off the field ― from fans, opposing teams and even initially his own teammates ― Robinson displayed astounding fortitude and dazzled the crowds on the field and at bat during his first season with the Dodgers, earning the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award. He retired with a career batting average of .311, 1,518 hits, 137 home runs, 734 RBIs and 197 stolen bases, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in his first year of eligibility (1962). 

Throughout his life, Robinson remained an active supporter of civil rights, serving as a spokesperson for the NAACP and a political activist with the goal of advancing the rights of all Americans. In 2007, MLB declared April 15 Jackie Robinson Day, and in 2009, the league declared that all uniformed personnel would wear 42 on April 15.  

 

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