Offered here is an exceedingly rare program that has a fifty-fifty chance of having been issued for Jackie Robinson's historic regular-season Major League debut against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. Although the program is not scored, based upon the preprinted lineups and rosters for each club, it can ONLY date from one of the first three games of the season against the Braves, scheduled for April 15, 16, and 17. (It can be even more narrowly dated to ONLY the April 15th or April 17th game, because the April 16th game was canceled due to weather.) The Braves' next visit to Ebbets Field that year was on June 26th, but Mort Cooper, who was traded to the Giants on June 13th, is listed here (he was the Braves’ starting pitcher in Robinson’s first game), while the player he was traded for, Bill Voisell, is not. That fact conclusively dates it to the first series of the year between the two clubs, specifically either the game played on April 15th or 17th. Therefore, this program is either from Robinson's first or second Major League game!
Robinson, who played first base and batted second in the order during his Major League debut on April 15th, went hitless in his first game; however, he did reach base on an error in the seventh inning and eventually scored the go-ahead run for the Dodgers, who scored three runs that frame to erase a 3-2 deficit. A crowd of 25,623 fans were in attendance that day, including an estimated 14,000 African Americans who proudly watched Robinson courageously change the course of baseball history. Despite the profound significance of Robinson's first game, programs from that day are incredibly rare. We have offered only one other (Lot 1333, May 2013; realized $4,147) and cannot recall having seen more than two other examples at auction in the past fifteen years.
Despite the advancements made the year before, which included Robinson becoming the first African American player in organized baseball since Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1889, it wasn't until Robinson took the field on opening day in 1947 that baseball's long-standing color barrier was officially broken. In many ways, it remains the most significant day in baseball history. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig summed it up well in 2004: "I have often stated that baseball's proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field. On that day, Jackie brought down the color barrier and ushered in the era in which baseball became the true national pastime."
The 12-page program (6.5 x 10 inches) is lightly toned, with a few tiny edge tears along the top border. A black-ink notation reading "Boston 1947," appears on the front cover, while a black ownership stamp, reading "JS Sports Information Library/1029 Hinman Avenue/Evanston, Illinois 60202" appears on the back cover. Not scored. Without reference to the ink notation or stamp, the program remains in Excellent condition overall. Reserve $500. Estimate (open).
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