When I was a sophomore in  (the former “white”) high school, my father shared a conversation he’d had at the local hospital, where he worked as a nurse. He had  been told that Jackie Robinson had made his professional debut in Sanford.

I  knew  (and my father did, too) that Robinson had played in the Negro League, thus knew that the claim wasn’t technically true.

Though I’d  learned that several Major League teams had previously conducted spring training in Sanford. I figured that perhaps the Brooklyn Dodgers were training there when  Robinson made his first appearance with  the organization.

I found out later, that had been  the Dodgers’ intent, but Jim Crow had other plans.

In 1946, the Brooklyn Dodgers assigned Robinson, and another Black player, Johnny Wright, to one of their minor league affiliate teams, The Montreal Royals, that was conducting spring training in Sanford.

Robinson and Wright were twice run out of town.

The first time, was shortly after they’d first arrived in Sanford, where they were guests in a private home, because they were not allowed to stay at the Mayfair Hotel with the team. Keep in mind,  this was NOT  a hotel policy it was the damn law. 

Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers had intended to break baseball’s color line in Sanford, but learned of threats made to Robinson and Wright, thus relocated the minor-league team to Daytona Beach where Robinson and Wright took the field for the first time.

A month later, the team was scheduled to play a game in Sanford. Robinson played in the first inning. But the local police chief ordered him off the field and threatened jail time for the team’s manager, and Wright and Robinson,  if the either of the Black players took the field again.

My reaction to learning this, was along the lines of WTF?!? Though it was  not particularly surprising. This was the Deep South.

While, I had begun to enjoy high school, after a bumpy start as a new kid, (a still-chubby freshman, and a yankee at that), there were a lot of things I disliked a lot about Sanford, and looked forward to leaving it one day.

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