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How Did Branch Rickey’s Revulsion of Racial Discrimination Change Baseball?

When he was still a student, coaching a college baseball team, Branch Rickey witnessed an event which eventually ended baseball's discrimination against African-Americans.

As coach for Ohio Wesleyan, 21-year-old Rickey and his baseball team were in South Bend for a game. Everyone on his team had a room, at a local hotel, except for Charley Thomas. 

Arguing with the hotel manager that his black player needed a place to sleep, Rickey finally proposed a compromise.  Couldn't Charley sleep on a cot in the coach's room?

Years later, Rickey told the heartbreaking story to Jackie Robinson:

"He [Charley] sat on that cot," Mr. Rickey said, "and was silent for a long time. Then he began to cry, tears he couldn't hold back. His whole body shook with emotion. I sat and watched him, not knowing what to do until he began tearing at one hand with the other—just as if he were trying to scratch the skin off his hands with his fingernails. I was alarmed. I asked him what he was trying to do to himself."

"'It's my hands,' he sobbed, 'They're black. If only they were white, I'd be as good as anybody then, wouldn't I, Mr. Rickey? If only I were white.'"

"Charley," Mr. Rickey said, "the day will come when they won't have to be white." (I Never Had It Made, page 27.)

What influence do you think Charley Thomas and his ill-treatment had on Branch Rickey and his desire to break baseball's "color line?"

Could a situation involving someone like Charley Thomas happen today? Explain your answer.


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