Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jackie Starts Second Half With A Bang

After a disappointing third place finish in the first half of the season, the Monarchs began their run for the second half title on Saturday, July 7 in Muskogee, Oklahoma against the Birmingham Black Barons. Lefty LaMarque twirled a complete game, allowed just one run, and Jackie smashed two home runs on the way to a 6-1 victory. This is only the second game in which Jackie homered that I'm aware of; the first had come way back on April 22, and was an inside-the-parker. Unfortunately the one brief game account for the July 7 game I've found doesn't specify what variety Jackie's two dingers were.

July 13 Kansas City Call

Muskogee was the setting for the most poignant story from Jackie's time with the Monarchs. It comes second hand from Buck O'Neil in his autobiography (Buck was in the Philippines with the Navy in '45):
(Jackie's) electricity wasn't just on the field. He got (the Monarchs) thinking in a different way. Growing up as he did in California, Jackie went to integrated schools and played on integrated teams. So when he got to the all-black Monarchs and saw the things they had to put up with--the Jim Crow laws, the separate drinking fountains and restrooms--he became furious. Othello "Chico" Renfroe, who played left field on that club, later told me that Jackie stormed out of so many places he left behind a fortune in change.
There was an incident in Muskogee, Oklahoma, that year that Hilton (Smith), who was Jackie's roommate, told me about. We had been buying gas for years at a service station there that had just one restroom--and we weren't allowed to use it. We thought nothing of it, and we gave the owner a lot of business anyway. Well, when the bus pulled into Muskogee and stopped at this station, Jackie got out and headed toward the restroom. The owner, who was filling the tank, called after him, "Hey boy! You know you can't go in there." Jackie asked him why. "Because we don't allow no colored people in that restroom."
The guys knew about Jackie's hair-triggered temper, so they just stood around, wondering what he was going to do. Jackie turned to the man very calmly and said, "Take the hose out of the tank." The owner stopped the pump and looked at him. "Take the hose out of the tank," Jackie repeated. Then he turned to his teammates and said, "Let's go. We don't want his gas."
Well, the Monarchs had two fifty-gallon tanks on the bus. That gas station wasn't going to sell a hundred gallons of gas to one customer until the bus came back through a few weeks later. He shoved the hose back into the tank and said, "All right, you boys can use the restroom. But don't stay long."
From then on, the Monarchs could use the restroom whenever they passed through.  But more importantly, they decided never to patronize any gas station or restaurant where they couldn't use the facilities.

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