Here is one of history’s mysteries. Was Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball’s color barrier, delayed by as many as eight months?
Wally Triplett has a theory that Robinson should have been called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1946 season, but Joe Tepsic got in the way. Baseball historians have splashed water on Triplett’s story, but people should not be dismissive of Triplett, who was one of two black Penn State players who desegregated Dallas’ Cotton Bowl in 1948 and was Robinson’s driver in 1947 when Robinson’s Dodgers played in Philadelphia.
Tepsic befriended Triplett in 1945 while the two played football at Penn State. In 1946, Tepsic signed a contract with Brooklyn, stating he could refuse being sent down to the minor leagues.
Tepsic was a struggling player with Brooklyn while Robinson was with the Dodgers’ Triple A team in Montreal in 1946.
“Jackie signed in 1945 and was sent to Montreal,” Triplett remembered. “In 1946, Leo Durocher wanted Jackie and asked Tepsic to go down to Montreal. Tepsic said ‘no.’ Tepsic had signed with Brooklyn and had a clause in his contract that he could decline going to the minor leagues. He delayed Jackie until 1947, he would not go down.”
According to accounts available, Tepsic’s teammates were hoping that he would accept the demotion and the team would pick up a veteran pinch hitter. There is no indication that Brooklyn would have added Robinson but Triplett said Durocher wanted Jackie.
Robinson made his Major League debut on April 15, 1947. Triplett struck up a conversation with Robinson after a game and took him home for a meal and to get away from the pressure.
Triplett would make history too, becoming the first African American to be drafted by an NFL team, the Detroit Lions, to make a roster in 1949.
Was Robinson’s debut delayed? It is one of History’s Mysteries.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.