When Jackie Robinson took the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform at the outset of the 1947 baseball season, he became the first African-American to play major league baseball in the Twentieth Century. Robinson's debut was a momentous social event in America, erasing a stain on society that had begun with a “gentleman's agreement” way back in the 1880's, one that said no man of color could play major league baseball. It was Dodgers' President and General Manager, Branch Rickey, who had the courage to sign Robinson in what was often called a “noble experiment.” Rickey had two reasons for bringing Jackie into the fold. He wanted to right what he saw as a terrible wrong and, more pragmatically, wanted to be the first to tap into the pool of great African-American baseball talent.
Robinson played the 1946 season for the Dodgers top farm club in Montreal. And that's when the rumblings began. Athletes spoke up, but in a totally negative way. Many white ballplayers said they simply didn't want to play on the same field with a black man, especially those from the deep south where racial segregation was still a way of life. Once Robinson jointed the Dodgers, several teams said they would boycott playing against them until National League President Ford Frick declared that any player refusing to take the field against the Dodgers would be banned from baseball for life.