Jackie Robinson would have turned 100 years old Thursday. To mark the occasion, The News is reprinting a front-page piece from then-Buffalo Evening News Sports Editor Bob Stedler from Robinson’s debut in Buffalo on May 19, 1946, when he played in a doubleheader with the Montreal Royals and faced the Bisons at Offermann Stadium.
The sports page had a photo of Robinson running down the first base line to beat out a hit with his cap flying off his head. Robinson played nine games that season against Buffalo and hit .379 with three runs batted in, six runs and four steals, including a steal of home. He hit .349 for the season and led the International League in runs scored with 113.
He made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
That truly sincere and enthusiastic welcome accorded Jackie Robinson in Offerman Stadium Sunday afternoon must have brought pleasant memories to the very old-timers in the crowd, for doubtless it brought back recollections of the days when another Negro player, Frank Grant, was a big favorite locally as a member of the Bison team.
In all probability Grant never performed before so large a gathering, for we assume, back in the early '90s, when this city had a popularity of a little more than its present total, a 12,242 attendance was almost out of the question. But whether that is so or not the fact is the reception given the Montreal player demonstrated beyond question his tremendous popularity.
On his first appearance when the Royals came through the Bison dugout to enter the field, he received an ovation he can never forget. During the pregame practice period and throughout both contests, his every move was keenly observed and his several plays on the field were liberally as well as enthusiastically applauded. He was the fielding star of the day, some of his plays bordering on the sensational, and at every opportunity, he handled the ball flawlessly and with a precision which stamps him as a high-ranking diamond performer.
At bat, Pitcher Lefty Pierce held him in high esteem issuing four bases on balls in his five trips to the plate, but he scored one of the team’s three runs, while in the second he hit safely once in his official three times at bat. He was safe on a sharp infield drive, giving the large turnout an opportunity to witness his speed afoot. Most players would have been thrown out.
An energetic committee headed by Harold E. Robinson, a former University of Buffalo athlete, made matters extremely pleasant for Robinson and Roy Partlow, the Negro pitcher also with Montreal. The reception was staged prior to the second contest and the committee and several admirers participated. Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Burrell was master of ceremonies. City Council President Kneeland B. Williams made presentations of several gifts following short addresses. Those in charge merit praise for the splendid manner in which the brief and interesting program was handled.
Robinson is a modest and unassuming type of player and the belief prevails he is a potential major leaguer provided he can retain the form he displayed here Sunday. At least that is the opinion of many who saw him in action in the local doubleheader. He is assured of a rousing reception on his every appearance in this city.