Over the years, we have handled a number of colorful silkscreened cardboard advertising displays dating roughly to the 1940s, but none as significant as this. This countertop display advertises a pair of exhibition games between the Montreal Royals and Brooklyn Dodgers to be held at Ebbets Field. We believe it to be a piece advertising the first two games played at Ebbets field by Jackie Robinson, which resulted in his being called up to begin the 1947 season in the major leagues.
Jackie Robinson's first full season in the minor leagues was stellar. In 553 plate appearances, Robinson batted .349 with a .468 on base percentage, stealing 40 bases and scoring 113 runs. He was exactly the sparkplug Branch Rickey had hoped he would be. In exhibition games in 1946 and 47, Robinson had fared well against the Dodgers, hitting .340 in games in Panama, Havana, and Daytona Beach. But in advance of the start of the 1947 season, Robinson's Montreal Royals would visit Ebbets Field for a two-game series against the Dodgers, who quietly planned for Robinson's Dodgers debut.
On April 10 and 11, the big New York sports news was the suspension of Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher, due to an "accumulation of unpleasant incidents." Bumped to the back pages was the less sensationalistic game result - on April 10, in the 4th inning, in front of an Ebbets Field crowd of 14,282, Jackie Robinson walked and scored a run. During the fifth inning, Branch Rickey's assistant, Arthur Mann, distributed a news release that stated, simply, "The Brooklyn Dodgers today purchased the contract of Jackie Robinson from the Montreal Royals." While several books indicate that the announcement was made April 9, newspaper accounts and boxscores indicate otherwise. Regardless, without much fanfare, the color barrier was broken in the 5th inning of a meaningless exhibition game at Ebbets Field. The following day, Robinson would wear a Dodgers uniform for the first time, in an exhibition game against the Yankees.
Presented is a wonderful document of what we believe to be those games - the only two exhibition games between the Royals and Dodgers at Ebbets Field on April 9 and 10 that our research could uncover. The sign advertised two locations where tickets could be purchased - 215 Montague Street (the site of the Dodgers' offices), and Ebbets Field. The two games were, essentially, Robinson's first games in a major league park - though his first actual major league game occurred five days later. This is the only piece of memorabilia of any kind that we have ever encountered from these games. It is difficult to overstate its historical significance.
The piece bears a similar design to other silkscreened countertop displays we have handled, but is much larger. Measuring approximately 19" x 13", it is printed in three colors on heavy board with an easel back, the game information flanking an image of a batter at the end of his swing. The team names appear in block letters at the base.
Condition is obviously poor, with significant paper loss at all edges, along with creasing and several tears.Portions of the edges were reinforced at some point with thick pieces of clear tape that remain on the reverse, and hold together several tears. While one might wonder whether professional restoration could benefit the piece, we have elected to leave it in its natural state. We have never seen another piece advertising this game (though it would seem reasonable to assume one exists somewhere in the vastness of this hobby). We have never seen a program, or a ticket, though they surely exist as well. But for now, it is the only collectible in existence that documents Jackie Robinson's first games at Ebbets Field, the second being the day he was brought up to the Dodgers and broke the color barrier.
Please note: in the catalog listing on our website, we are including an image of a similar piece that we sold several years ago, which utilizes a similar design and color scheme, for illustrative purposes. We are also including scans of several newspaper accounts from the game.