The Jerseys of Jackie Robinson, Part 2



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, 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.


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




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.




1946 Montreal Royals Satin Cap


Flannels Of The Month

Returning to an old tradition here. At the end of nearly every month we add a new group of historic baseball jerseys to our website. At one time I used to do a blog post about one or more of them, then I got busy, or I got lazy, take your pick…Anyway, the point being we’d like to start doing that again. I like this month’s group, both for the graphic diversity (who doesn’t like a baseball shirt with a tree on it? Thank you 1956 Missoula Timberjacks), and the relevance to current events. With Cuba once again in the news, I thought it would be a nice time to introduce the 1956 Hershey Sports Club shirt to the world. And with Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson film coming up in April, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Jackie’s 1945 home Kansas City Monarchs jersey, which we will take up in more detail in a couple of weeks. One of the oddest jerseys I have seen was this zip-up Hawaii Islanders flannel from 1970. It is rare to see vertical stacked lettering like this. As flannels were almost universally abandoned after 1971 for the dreaded double knits, this was likely Hawaii’s last road flannel.


The State of Hawaii patch adorns the left sleeve, as on previous Hawaii uniforms. The Islanders were a California Angels affiliate in this period, and the basic uniform style and trim owed a lot to the parent club. They may have even been earlier Angel uniforms handed down to the affiliate team – a common money-saving practice at that time. The Islanders were the pride of the Coast League in 1970, with a club that boasted a 98-48 record (best in the league). Chuck Tanner was manager and the team drew 467,000 fans into Honolulu’s old “Termite Palace”, pretty great when you consider that the next-best drawing club was Tucson, who only attracted 35% as many fans. In fact, the Islanders are considered one of the 100 best minor league teams in history. The Aloha State’s love affair with their professional baseball club ended by 1987, when the team finished last, and only 116,000 fans showed up to bear witness. The Islanders packed up and left for Colorado Springs the following season.

Check out the rest of this month’s selections here. And hopefully, this will become more of a habit!

Bobby Maduro and the Miami Amigos

Caracas, Maracaibo, Miami, Panama, San Juan, Santo Domingo. Collectively, these cities resonate in the world of Caribbean baseball in the way that a listing of “New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Tokyo” resonates in the world of high fashion. The only Caribbean baseball city clearly absent from that list is Havana.

Bobby Maduro was born in Havana in 1916. In 1954, he would become the owner and driving force behind the minor league Havana Sugar Kings, an International League club that played at the Havana ballpark now known as Estadio Latinoamericano, the largest and most famed park in Cuba. For Maduro, the Triple-A Sugar Kings seemed to be a stepping stone to his bigger dream, which was to bring a Major League club to Havana. But in 1960, after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and nationalized the economy, the wealthy Maduro was forced to emigrate to Miami––though, ironically, not before an exhibition game was played between his Sugar Kings and the “Barbudos” team led by Castro and fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos.


Miami Stadium (later Bobby Maduro Stadium)

In the late 1970s, the Cold War and the resulting isolation of a Soviet-backed Cuba were in full effect when Maduro set out to a realize a new dream, creating an elite professional baseball league in the Caribbean to play in the summer, a key challenge and distinction from the usual Caribbean winter leagues. Working with people in Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, Maduro found owners, stadiums, and coaches, laying the framework for what would become the Inter-American Baseball League.


The Miami Amigos played at Miami Stadium. Cap available here.

In 1979, the league was finally set to begin play between its founding clubs: the Caracas Metropolitanos, the Maracaibo Petroleros, the Panama Banqueros, the San Juan Boricuas, the Santo Domingo Tiburones, and the pillar of the league, its American entry, the Miami Amigos, who were managed by 4-time Major League All Star, Davey Johnson.

The league’s inaugural game was played on April 11, 1979, before 10,000 fans at Panama’s Estadio Arosemena, between the home Banqueros and the Miami Amigos, a game which the Banqueros won, 6-5, thanks to an unexpected two-out rally in the bottom of the 9th.

In June of that year, the San Juan and Panama clubs folded, a few weeks later the rest of the league’s clubs followed suit. Maduro’s dream had lasted for little more than three months.

Shortly after Maduro’s 1986 death, the city of Miami renamed the ballpark that had housed the Miami Amigos, among other local Minor League clubs, Bobby Maduro Stadium. The vote in favor was unanimous.

Guest blogger, Joe Swide

Not Even A Cup Of Coffee…

A few years ago, I did a blog post about veteran minor leaguer Cosmo Cotelle, who played for over twenty teams in a twenty year career without ever tasting even a cup of coffee in the majors.  Cotelle played for ten different major league organizations and five levels of minor league ball from 1919 to 1940. Despite a lifetime aggregate batting average of .320 in the minors, Cotelle never got the call. He reached the highest level of minor leagues several times, but never made it that last step. This was not so unusual at the time, as there were only sixteen major league clubs, so about 400 total jobs. Once a player reached the majors he did anything to stay there, including playing hurt. With up to 300 teams in the minors, that meant as many as 7500 players competing for a handful cherished slots in the bigs.

Cosmo Cotelle, no doubt wondering what it will take to get to the majors.

Cosmo Cotelle, no doubt wondering what it will take to get to the majors.

In Cotelle’s case, it was a typical situation of a very good player perhaps not having that something extra to earn a look in the big leagues.

The pitcher Bill Sisler holds the record for most teams played for at an astounding fifty. But what is more interesting is that he seems to have been a lousy player whose main talent was talking himself into jobs. He never lasted more than a few games with any club, yet he continued to talk his way into new contracts. Sisler’s best record was 8-10 with the 1942 Staunton Presidents of the Class C Virginia League. It would be great fun to do an entire collection of the fifty caps worn by Sisler, though I’m not sure how big a market there would be. For more on Sisler check out Tim Hagerty’s column at The Sporting News.

Bill Sisler with the Trenton Giants, one of 50 teams he played for.

Bill Sisler with the Trenton Senators, one of 50 teams he played for.