James Bowman does not care for the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 because of its “blatant anti-Pennsylvania prejudice.” Bowman notes he is a Pennsyvlania native.
But facts are facts. Robinson was unmercifully heckled by Phillies manager Ben Chapman and the Dodgers were not permitted to stay at Benjamin Franklin Hotel.
It is worth noting that the Phillies were the last NL team to integrate in 1957 when Negro League shortstop John Kennedy had a brief stint with the team. At the time Kennedy joined the Phillies, the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox were the only teams without a black ballplayer. That was rectified by the Tigers and Bosox in 1958 and 1959, respectively with Ozzie Virgil and Pumpsie Green.
Dick Allen could tell a thing or two about being a black ballplayer in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Allen was constantly peppered with racial epithets while he played at Connie Mack Stadium. There were so many foreign objects thrown at him, Allen wore a batting helmet as he played in the field.
The Phillies finally traded Allen to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1970 season. In exchange, the Phillies received outfielder Curt Flood but Flood refused to report to Philly. He would subsequently (and unsuccessfully) challenge MLB’s reserve clause. One of the reasons Flood refused to play with the Phillies was the city and team’s treatment of black ballplayers. The Cardinals, by contrast, were amongst the best organizations in MLB where it concerned black ballplayers.
Pittsburgh wasn’t much better. It did not have a black ballplayer until 1954 when second baseman Curt Roberts made the team. The GM for the Pirates was none other than Branch Rickey, the Dodgers GM who was determined to break the color barrier.
But, of course, things would change in Pennsylvania. In 1971, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh fielded an all black starting lineup albeit unintentionally. The Bucs would go on to win the World Series that October led by Roberto Clemente. Allen would return to the Phillies in 1975 and was embraced by the fans. All’s well that ends well.