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Dodgers: The Real Reason Behind Jackie Robinson’s Retirement

When Jackie Robinson arrived to the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947, the world was forever changed. Sports were suddenly opened up to a realm of talent that had not been given the same opportunity before. Thanks to Jackie, baseball, in particular, would venture down a new path, never before ventured. 

But with the legacy of Jackie Robinson tends to come some confusion. There are so many stories out there that have passed down from generation to generation so many times, that no one quite knows what’s true anymore. The Dodgers’ legend overcame so many obstacles to play major league baseball, but the details of his everyday life are hard to come by.

The struggles that Jackie faced while playing with the Dodgers are fairly well-documented, but even those do not cover all of the danger and distress he had to face on a daily basis. Another area of Jackie’s life that is less documented, is his departure from the Dodgers and eventual retirement. 

At my age, a man doesn’t have much future in baseball and very little security. After you’ve reached your peak, there’s no sentiment in baseball. You start slipping, and pretty soon they’re moving you around like a used car. You have no control over what happens to you. I don’t want that.

Jackie was traded from the Dodgers to the Giants following the 1956 season — a season which Jackie saw a continued decline in playing time and defensive numbers. His decline in play matched up too well with the arrival of stars like Jim Gilliam, who took over Robinson’s second base job in 1953. 

This article originally erroneously listed 1947 as the year Jackie was traded, not 1956.

The arrival of young talent and the age of Robinson, paired with growing tension between him and the organization, eventually led the Dodgers into trading him to the rival Giants. The Brooklyn franchise had hoped that Robinson would retire gracefully but reportedly wanted to force his hand. 

Unbeknownst to the Giants at the time of the trade, Jackie already had plans to retire from baseball if traded. He had already signed a deal with the Chock Full o’Nuts Coffee company to become the vice president. The Giants tried to change his mind with a $60,000 offer, but the Dodgers’ legend turned the offer down. There were also plenty of rumors about why he turned that down that you can read here

All of that to say, Jackie Robinson had bigger things in mind that baseball when he chose to retire. It was not the fact that he did not want to play with the Giants, where he could have paired up with Willie Mays. Instead, it was about his financial future and the fact that Jackie was a Civil Rights icon. His focus shifted there, and baseball was left in the rearview mirror. 

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  1. Correction – Robinson was traded after the 1956 season, not 1947. Robinson had not only accepted the executive position with the candy company, but he had sold his story to either “Look” or “Life” magazine for a substantial amount of money ($100K I believe).

    1. Chock full o nuts was not a candy company, it was a chain of lunch counter type coffee shops mostly in the New York area.

  2. I was about to report that Robinson played for the Dodgers from 1947 to 1956 so I couldn’t see how he was traded to the Giants in 1947.

  3. Dear Staff Writer,

    Please check your facts such as the dates of supposed events prior to posting.

  4. Baseball, as with all Pro Sports, are quickly fleeting years. The Dodgers wanted the first African American player to be mature. Jackie was 28 years old when he made his Dodger Pro Debut in 1947 with The Brooklyn Dodgers.

    To begin your Pro Career at 28 years old, and be the NL stolen base leader twice in your first three years in the big leagues is quite an accomplishment, as well as being named the First Rookie of the Year of MLB in 1947.

    For the Dodgers to trade Robinson, at age 38, in 1957, to their rival team, the Giants, I think, is a DISGRACE. Reminds me that Professional Baseball is a business, and erecting a statue of Jackie Robinson at Dodger Stadium 60 years later is an insult, too. 60 years? What-the Dodgers didn’t have the money, or were too busy in the offseasons to plan something earlier???

    It’s difficult to talk about Jackie Robinson’s maturity, without mentioning his wife, Rachel, who has been a widow, without her husband, for so many decades now.

    I really admire Rachel Robinson, for the intestinal fortitude that she exudes, by showing up, every year, on Jackie Robinson Day, with a smile on her face.

    How easy it would be for Rachel Robinson to show some of the hurt, resentment or any other ill feelings that she and Jackie experienced during the 1947 rookie year, until other black players started making major league rosters.

    Yet, she doesn’t show the public that. A real graceful lady. We could all learn a lesson from Jackie and Rachel Robinson. It'[s better to try and do the right thing, and behave the right way, no matter what others think of you or how you are treated by others. That, I think , is Jackie Robinson’s legacy.

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