Montreal honours Robinson with plaque

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BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The simple north-end duplex where baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson and wife Rachel were welcomed with open arms amid the racially turbulent 1940s now sports a plaque from the U.S. government, recognizing Robinson's status as a "baseball legend and civil rights leader."

Robinson's daughter, Sharon, unveiled the golden plaque Monday in front of hordes of onlookers and media. Jackie Robinson played one season with the triple-A Montreal Royals before moving on to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he was the first black player in the history of Major League Baseball.

His daughter said her parents had fond memories of their summer in Montreal in 1946, where Robinson played at de Lorimier Stadium not far from their home in Montreal North.

"When they were in Montreal they were welcomed and the fans were great," said Sharon, who has written several books on her late father. "On the road, it was a completely different situation."

Rachel Robinson, now 88, did not attend the ceremony but sent a letter in which she recalled arriving in Montreal with her husband, unsure of how whites would receive them.

They had just lived through a terrifying season of racial taunts and snubs in the deep South. An opposing player had even thrown a black cat on to the field during a game, referring to the animal as Robinson's cousin.

But when they moved to Montreal, their fears of further humiliation quickly subsided as neighbours gave them food stamps and doted on Rachel, who was pregnant with the couple's first child.

"Montreal was the perfect place for him to get his start," she wrote. "We never had a threatening or unpleasant experience there, the people were so welcoming and saw Jack as a player and, more importantly, as a man."

Several dignitaries were on hand as the plaque was unveiled, including David Jacobson, U.S. Ambassador to Canada. The ceremony capped Black History Month celebrations in the city.

Robinson had three home runs and 66 RBIs in 124 games with the Royals. He went on to play 10 seasons with the Dodgers, hitting 137 homers with 734 RBIs while batting .311.

He became a civil-rights icon and his No. 42 jersey was later retired by all major-league teams to honour his status as a sporting and cultural pioneer.


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