Why Jackie Robinson “Fell In Love With Brooklyn”

Jackie Robinson In Action

From 1947 to 1949, Jackie Robinson lived at 5224 Tilden Avenue, near the Utica Avenue subway stop, which Councilman Juumane Williams wants to make a historic landmark.

Actually, that was Robinson’s second Brooklyn home. According to the biography Jackie Robinson by Arnold Rampersad, he first lived at 526 MacDonough Street at the corner of Ralph Avenue, where “they found not the sylish building they had imagined but a tenement infested with roaches.” He also lived briefly with the assistant pastor of the Nazarene Congregational Church at 506 MacDonough.

Nonetheless, the Robinsons bonded with Brooklynites:

Both Jack and Rachel fell in love with Brooklyn. “The feeling in Brooklyn was very supportive, very rich, and we loved it,” she recalled. “Some places on the road I hated, their total intolerance; but Brooklyn was the opposite, and Jack loved it, too.” From the start he made it his business to be kind to fans, epecially at home. “He had his favorites, he especially loved to talk with the little old ladies; he would hug them and path them and chat with themvery patiently.”

Robinson made special efforts to connect with Brooklyn kids:

When a ten-year-old Brooklyn boy, Milton Goldman, was gravely ill in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and his doctors asked for a Dodger or two to visit him, Jack was the first volunteer. He arrived at the hospital bearing toys and a baseball autographed by his teammates. “Jackie took the boy’s emaciated hand in his,” one report went. “The boy tried to squeeze it. For several minutes Jackie sat talking to the boy, then out of the clear sky the lad muttered, “Gee, Jackie Robinson, and he came here just to see me.’”

In April 1947, the Robinsons moved into the top floor of the two family house at 5224 Tilden, despite opposition from some of the white residents in the area. Rachel Robinson soon became close friends with the neighbors a few doors down, Arch and Sarah Satlow, the daughter of Russian immigrants.

One day, an alarmed neighbor had called out to Sarah to warn her that ablack family was moving into the neighborhood. “Oh, isn’t that nice!” Sara replied, without thinking. Her neighbor slammed the window shut. Then someone brought around a petition for Sarah to sign. “I said, ‘Are you mad? Are you crazy?’”

The Robinsons were unusual in the neighborhood in more ways than one.

“[The neighborhood in Flatbush] was unlike anything they had known before – a living, breathing Jewish community, complete with synagogues, yeshivas, kosher bakeries and butcher shops, delicatessens, and the like. Jack and Rachel liked this difference this sense of being educated about the world, about the multiple richness of American life. “In California,” Rachel said, “we know nothing about Jewish culture… We were innocent, or ignorant.” So ignorant, in fact, that one Christmas they stunned the Satlows by giving them a Christmas tree. “We didn’t know what to do,” Sarah said. “What would my parents think? Then we decided to put it up. The children liked it, and Jack and Rachel meant well.”

In 1949, he moved to a larger house in St. Alban, Queens. He is buried at the Cypress Hills Cemetery, which straddles Brooklyn and Queens.

UPDATE: The Brooklyn Eagle has a full rundown of Jackie Robinson sites in Brooklyn.