The Jerseys of Jackie Robinson, Part 3

Robinson47

Robinson’s first Dodger home uniform.

In the two previous posts we discussed the uniforms worn by Jackie Robinson in his Negro league and minor league careers. From 1947 until his final season of 1956, his uniforms are of course synonymous with the uniforms of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although the primary elements of the  Dodger uniforms (particularly at home) have remained almost unchanged from Robinson’s first season up through today, there were several minor changes between 1947 and 1956. First, it must be said that I think it’s sad that Robinson never actually wore a uniform with “Brooklyn” on it. The last flannel road uniforms to say “Brooklyn” were worn in 1945, with the city name not being returned to the road shirts until 1958, when the Bums were on the opposite coast. Jackie started out his rookie season in a zipper-front raglan sleeved jersey with the familiar “Dodgers” in royal blue script emblazoned across the front. There was no trim on the jersey, and the script font was slightly more angular than the later version. Note that the lettering splits between the “d” and “g”. The split between “o” and “d” began in 1950, and has remained in force through today.

Dodgers50HomeJackie

Jackie Robinson’s 1950 Home Jersey

The road jerseys were button-front with narrow blue trim (called “soutache” in our trade).  In 1950 the letters moved to their familiar position on the jersey, and in 1951 a patch commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National League was added to the left sleeve (as it was on all NL clubs). The final big change to the Dodger uniforms was in 1952, when a large red number was added to the front of the jersey, below the lettering. It is interesting that the Dodgers chose a red number, because no red had been a Dodgers uniform since 1936. There are several theories about the origin of the red numbers, and most people assign credit to principal owner Walter O’Malley for the innovation. It is likely that the numbers were added with television in mind, a new phenomenon is sports which would have wide implications in uniform design. One story suggests that O’Malley added the numbers for the 1951 World Series, a series that of course the Dodgers would never play in due to unexpected events at the Polo Grounds that October. Whatever the reason, the red numbers were here to stay, though they wouldn’t be added to the road uniforms until the club moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

Jackie52

Red numbers were added in 1952. Home jersey only.

DodgersRd1957

Last Brooklyn road jersey, note trim.

Let’s talk jackets. The Dodgers wore a plethora of jackets in different fabrics during the Robinson era. There were all-wool styles, wool with leather sleeves, and fur-lined “Skinner satin” jackets (a high quality rayon satin fabric), similar to the one we made for the Bert Shotten character in the film “42”.

BrooklynJacket55

1955 Skinner Satin jacket

DodgerJacket

All-wool jacket made by Butwin of Minnesota.

 

DodgersSpaldingJacket

Leather sleeve jacket with matching gold trim.

The Jerseys of Jackie Robinson, Part 2

Jackie_Robinson_no.30.jpg

 

Last week we took a look at the uniforms worn by Jackie Robinson during his brief time in the Negro leagues, as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League and the Kansas City Royals winter league team (not to be confused with the current MLB team of that name or the Montreal Royals, which was the Dodger affiliate Robinson played for before joining the Bums). It should be mentioned that Robinson in fact broke the organized baseball color barrier not in Brooklyn, but a year earlier in Montreal of the International League, and that he faced many of the same situations in cities like Baltimore and Syracuse that would become so familiar in his inaugural season with Brooklyn. (Fortunately, he was welcomed with open arms by Montreal’s rabid fans). Montreal was a farm team of Brooklyn, the farm system having been pioneered by Branch Rickey when he was general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. At the time, most minor league teams were independent entities who sold players to the highest big league bidder. Rickey, being a parsimonious type, wanted more control of minor league affiliates and player development, so came up with a system (universal today) wherein the major league club owned outright or at least controlled the fortunes of their minor league affiliates. This is relevant to our discussion here, because in 1946 the Dodgers brought together all their minor league prospects in Spring Training in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Here we must digress a bit and discuss the fad that several major league teams, most notably the Dodgers, indulged in for select night games: satin uniforms. Brooklyn first broke out the satin togs in 1944, and appear to have worn four different satin designs through the early 1950s, when they were discontinued. It appears that many of the satin 1944 uniforms made their way to Florida for use by minor league prospects. (For a great primer on the history of satin uniforms in baseball, go here). The Royals appear to have removed the Dodgers lettering and substituted “Royals” in cursive script (the lettering material was also satin, and the Royals matched the uniforms with a matching white satin cap). Robinson is first shown in such a uniform, with a #30 affixed to the back.

 

jackie-robinson-april-17-1946

Jackie Robinson, Spring Training 1946. Satin uniform.

Later on in Spring Training we see him in a regular season gray flannel Montreal road uniform with #9 on the back, the number he would use during the regular season, and this is the uniform Robinson wore when he broke in at Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium on April 15th, 1946, creating a stir with his magnificent offensive performance. Curiously, the satin uniforms do not seem to have made an appearance during the regular season, the home uniform being a standard creme design with “Royals” in blue felt across the front, similar to what the parent Dodgers wore, but with added blue trim. One interesting fact is that two variations of the white felt “M” adorned the wool cap during the season.

JackieJC

Robinson crosses the plate on 4/18/46, the first official organized baseball game which included an African-American player.

 

 

DodgersSatin44

Circa 1944 Dodgers satin uniform. These were handed down to the Montreal farm club in 1946.

 

Jean-Pierre Roy and Hugh Casey

Royals’ regular season home flannel.

 

 

RoaylsSatinCap

1946 Montreal Royals Satin Cap