On March 31, 1948, baseball legend Jackie Robinson made his Dodgertown debut and the major league Dodgers held their first spring training game on this historic property.
To commemorate this day in history, more than 60 fourth grade students from Dodgertown Elementary School in Vero Beach visited Historic Dodgertown today for an interactive history lesson, which included welcome messages by City and County officials and the District School Superintendent, plus an outdoor scavenger hunt to further the students’ education.
The theme for the morning was Robinson’s famous quote: “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.”
As Dodgertown namesakes, the school teaches their students about local history and highlights the importance of Robinson breaking the color barrier in sports and the significance of Dodgertown being the first fully integrated spring training facility in the South.
The students were treated to a short video showing color footage from 1951 of Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Don Newcombe, Duke Snider and others playing on the fields at Dodgertown.
The same fields used then are used today for Historic Dodgertown baseball training and games by professional, international, collegiate, high school and travel ball teams. In addition to baseball, the fields have been expanded and enhanced to accommodate the sports of softball, soccer, lacrosse and rugby, by professional teams from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), USA and ATAVUS Rugby and more.
Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia and later moved to Pasadena, California. At UCLA he remains the only student to earn varsity letters in four sports in one year (baseball, football, basketball, track). He served in the Army and played in the Negro Leagues before Dodger executive Branch Rickey chose him to break the color barrier in sports. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, Most Valuable Player in 1949 and won a World Series title in 1955.
As noted in Dodgertown history from March 31, 1948: “Field No. 2 is dedicated at Dodgertown as Jackie Robinson homers in the first inning and the Dodgers defeat the Montreal Royals, 5-4. Roy Campanella has his contract purchased by the Dodgers from Montreal and plays for the major league club. On the field that day for the Dodgers were future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Arky Vaughan, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, and Pee Wee Reese. Playing first base for Montreal was Kevin Connors, later known as “The Rifleman,” actor Chuck Connors. Among the dignitaries attending the game are Florida Governor Millard Caldwell and Baseball Commissioner Albert Chandler.”
“It was rewarding to spend this time with the students of Dodgertown Elementary as they experienced Jackie Robinson’s legend and his commitment to making this a better place for all sports and all mankind,” said Indian River County Commissioner Joe Flescher. “I’m grateful to Peter O’Malley, Craig Callan and the entire Historic Dodgertown staff for providing the environment and interactive out-of-class experience for the young individuals who never met Jackie Robinson.”
“The legacy of Jackie Robinson is an inspiration to all. As Mayor, I am proud that our beloved City of Vero Beach was a pioneer of racial integration in Major League sports,” said City of Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss.
“We are proud to be a community partner, and to continue that legacy started nearly 70 years,” said Historic Dodgertown Vice President Craig Callan. “It was a treat to welcome the fourth grade class from Dodgertown Elementary School and to share with them valuable life lessons. The students had a great time, and we certainly enjoyed their visit.”
From its roots as a former Naval Air Station, Historic Dodgertown remains a relevant and active facility. More than 1,100 teams are welcomed each year for training and competition, in addition to corporate meetings and retreats, reunions, concerts and community events, filming and more, and is an economic generator for the city and county. Each year more than 40,000 guests visit the property, and more than 32,000 hotel rooms are booked locally and in the region from Historic Dodgertown business alone. Historic Dodgertown also hosts the annual Jackie Robinson Celebration Game each April 15, which benefits the United Way of Indian River County.
For more information on Historic Dodgertown, please visit www.HistoricDodgertown.com.