Jackie Robinson: un été à Montréal
Jackie Robinson: un été à Montréal (Jackie Robinson: A Summer in Montreal) is a book by Montréal, QC-based historian Marcel Dugas that recounts the 1946 season that Jackie Robinson spent with the Montreal Royals of the International League before breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers the following April. For all its historical importance, the season is often quickly glossed over in Robinson's biographies and movies about him, even though it played a pivotal role in his story.
As the author explains, for Robinson to play for Brooklyn, he first had to prove in the minor leagues that he belonged in organized baseball or Branch Rickey's "great experiment" would have ended in abject failure, probably delaying the integration of Major League Baseball by a number of years. Success wasn't a given, as there were many who hoped that Robinson would fail, and there was much hostility along the way. This started with a very complicated spring training in Daytona Beach, FL, in which a number of teams refused to play the Royals. He was basically chased away from Sanford, FL, where the Royals were scheduled to play the parent Dodgers, by threats of physical violence ... or worse, given that lynchings were still a regular occurrence at the time.
The book goes through the timeline of the Royals' season, with a focus on Robinson's performance, from his tremendous first game on opening day in Jersey City, NJ, when he homered in his second at-bat and was greeted at home plate by George Shuba, in what would be become an iconic photograph, his enthusiastic acceptance by hometown fans in Montreal, his winning the batting title, and then Montreal's path to a triumphant win in the 1946 Junior World Series, where they defeated the Louisville Colonels and had to play the first three games in what was the deep south.
The author recounts the difficulties that Robinson faced, the role of his two African-American teammates, John Wright and Roy Partlow, who served as his roommates during spring training and in the first few weeks of the season, and of sportswriter Wendell Smith. He also goes over some of the hostile treatment Robinson received, but also how he was seen by many fans as a true superstar, attracting huge media coverage, and some of the myths that have since developed about that season. He also delves on the sociological context in which the events unfolded. The book also includes vignettes depicting Jackie's manager, Clay Hopper, and teammates, and includes a number of illustrations, many of which have hardly been seen since gracing the pages of contemporary newspapers.
The book grew out of a blog that Dugas kept in 2016, in which he chronicled day-by-day the events of 70 years earlier. He then turned this material into a book, using a number of published sources, both existing biographies, but also the extensive daily coverage in newspapers in Montreal and around the league. In particular, it is probably the first biography of Robinson to use the numerous French-language articles that were written about him at the time. The book was originally published in French in 2019, but will likely be translated in English in due course, given that the interest about Robinson's life is as great as ever.
- Marcel Dugas: Jackie Robinson: un été à Montréal, Hurtubise, Montréal, QC, 2019. ISBN 9782897813147