The Dodgers would have a revered place in baseball history based solely on their accomplishments over the years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. But what separates them from many clubs, particularly the Yankees in the minds of many, is their role in social progress. In this respect, it is apropos that the man who symbolized this, Jackie Robinson, came from UCLA. The two schools - UCLA and USC - located in the city that later would be the Dodgers' home, stand above most other college traditions for the same reason. USC's first All-American in 1925, Brice Taylor, was black. Integrated, fairly-played football games in front of mammoth Coliseum throngs between the Trojans and the Bruins, who featured black stalwarts such as Robinson, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, were visual statements that spoke louder than speeches.
Branch Rickey chose Robinson in large measure because of his college pedigree and nationwide football fame. Rickey himself was motivated above all other things by Christianity. Later, two Southerners, broadcaster Red Barber and Baseball Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler, invoked God and the reception they hoped to receive when they "meet my Maker" as reasons for welcoming Robinson instead of opposing him.
Brooklyn was the perfect place for Robinson. The borough had a large black population that had a certain amount of political and economic clout. It was also quite Jewish in character, and this resulted in natural bonds. Baseball was the most assimilating aspect of the American experience for most ethnics.
When the club moved to Los Angeles, which was seemingly the Promised Land, it was as if God had graced them with the presence of a Jewish superstar, Sandy Koufax, who performed near-miracles on the green plains in another city with a huge Jewish population. Sandy's love of art, music and fine dining symbolized the renaissance that was Jewish life in Los Angeles, where its citizenry was not hung up on ethnic enclaves but rather on the American Dream.
The Dodgers revered their traditions. Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, two black stars who followed in Jackie's path, were given prominent roles in the club's organization when they established themselves in Los Angeles. 1962 National League Most Valuable Player Maury Wills symbolized the "new breed" of black athlete; a man about town unafraid to speak his mind and stand up for his rights.
The club had to come to grips with the new forces of social unrest they had helped to create. Naturally conservative in their traditional approach, Walter O'Malley's team was late in honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but heard public pressure and in succeeding years lived up to their legacy. Black stars such as Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith graced the Dodger Stadium diamond in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the 1990s, the club broke new ground when they became one of the first teams to truly tap into the international talent base. Long a promoter of Latin American baseball, the club picked up Japanese superstar pitcher Hideo Nomo, who exploded on the scene in 1995, 54 years after the West Coast had been put on alert over a threatened Japanese invasion. This led to an influx of great Japanese players on other teams. Later, Kaz Ishii pitched effectively in Los Angeles. The large Japanese population of Los Angeles was the perfect place to succeed, and Japanese-American baseball has done just that.
Chan Ho Park of South Korea was an effective Dodger pitcher in the late 1990s, although cultural differences had to be ironed out. When the Dodgers initiated him with some friendly rookie hazing, the burly right-hander took it personally.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism