Friday, May 25, 2012

"He'll Never Make It" - Carl Reynolds Sr., Chicago White Sox, on Jackie Robinson's entering MLB

I shared with Mr. Cline my wondering of how MLB would have progressed differently, at the same place in time, if  his defense hadn't been successful and if Jackie Robinson hadn't been acquitted but found guilty of the charges brought against him in the court-martial trial. I asked how much time JR could possibly have served if found guilty.

Cline said "Refusing to obey an order from a superior officer could be punishable by death". 

Rachel Robinson's "Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait" (c 1996), states that on August 2, 1944, after hours of testimony from prosecution witnesses "clearly lacking in credibility", Jack's lawyer, Lieutenant William A. Cline, summed up by saying this was not a case "involving any violation of the Articles of War...but simply a situation in which a few individuals sought to vent their bigotry on a Negro they considered 'uppity.' 

Cline got Jackie Robinson acquitted that very day. The trial lasted from 10am-3pm.

On January 14, 2012, Cline told me, "You know, Jackie, he had something the matter with his ankle. And they put him out of the army on a medical discharge. He had signed a waiver disclaiming any claim about the United States. But the army wouldn't accept it. They put him out of the army." Mr. Cline was obviously disappointed and saddened to have to share this news with me, as if he'd never really talked about it much before.

"Intimate Portrait" sheds a lot of light on this part of the story. "Realizing the court-martial trial had caused him to miss going oversees with Bates' outfit, Jack was disgusted and wanted out. He deliberately violated military protocol by writing a letter directly to the Adjunct General's office in Washington about his case. He figured this would get results quickly, and it did.  On November 28, 1944, using the fact that Jack had bone chips in his ankle, the army gave him an honorable discharge." 

(Note: Cline attributed Bates' glowing testimony, on behalf of Jackie and his character, to being a huge piece of the acquittal pie. Bates was a highly respected "bird colonel" according to Cline.)

"He changed the baseball world. We had a player here [from Wharton] that played for the Chicago White Sox. Carl Reynolds was his name. When Jackie went into Major League Baseball [1946] Carl told me "He'll never make it. Their not going to tolerate him." And you know, they did everything to him. They spit in his face when they'd sign in, they'd cuss him out when it couldn't be heard overall. They didn't make it easy for him at all. He withstood a whole lot."

 Cline's Wharton, TX friend, Carl Reynolds, between babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. (Thanks to Carl Reynolds, Jr. for passing this photo on to me via Larry Sitka. And thanks to Larry, a good friend to Mr. Cline.) 

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