Robinson, Reese Linked Together Forever

A special statue of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese was unveiled November 1 at the entrance of KeySpan Park, home to the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was n hand to unveil the statue that captures forever the moment in May 1947 when Reese threw his arm around his new Brooklyn Dodgers teammate on the field in Cincinnati in a show of support for Major League Baseball's first African-American player.

Robinson, the first African-American to play in the majors, was a month into his rookie season. The death threats were starting to pile up. FBI agents were in the stands, just in case. Some of Robinson's teammates had circulated a petition that spring, determined to let the Dodger owners know they weren't thrilled about sharing their locker room with a black man. The players in the other dugout were especially cruel. Black cats were thrown onto the field.

Reese's memorable came during a May series against the Reds in Cincinnati. With horrific verbal garbage raining down on Robinson, Reese's simple act calling time and moving over to put his arm around Robinson will never be forgotten.

"I remember Jackie talking about Pee Wee's gesture the day it happened," Jackie's wife Rachel said. "It came as such a relief to him, that a teammate and the captain of the team would go out of his way in such a public fashion to express friendship."

Mark Reese, PeeWee's son, is a filmmaker passed along what Pee Wee told Jackie when he put his arm around Robinson's shoulder. "Basically, what he said was '(expletive) 'em.'

"My father, who came from a heavily segregated part of the country, faced friends, teammates and, yes, some family members who were opposed to his stepping on the field with a black man ... he listened to his heart, not the chorus."

Yet, Reese's widow, Dorothy, conceded that "there was no way Pee Wee would believe his simple gesture would become so important."

Mayor Bloomberg served as emcee and was also the leadoff speaker, saying that Robinson, like Rosa Parks, who died Oct. 24, was a civil rights hero.

"Jackie was a role model" who, said Bloomberg, went about his life and his athletic pursuits with "style, grace and dignity," and "electrified a nation."

Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, said, "When Pee Wee Reese threw his arm around Jackie Robinson's shoulder in this legendary gesture of support and friendship, they showed America and the world that racial discrimination is unacceptable and un-American."

"It's a historic symbol of a wonderful legacy of friendship, of teamwork, of courage -- of a lot of things we hope we will be able to pass on to young people," Rachel Robinson said. "And we hope they will be motivated by it, be inspired by it and think about what it would be like to stand up, dare to challenge the status quo and find a friend there who will come over and support you."

Other speakers included Della Britton Baeza, the president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation; Dorothy and Mark Reese, the widow and son of Pee Wee Reese; and Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president. Also in attendance were Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, Mets general manager Omar Minaya, former Brooklyn Dodgers World Series hero Johnny Podres and Brooklyn native and former Met John Franco, among others.

A band of five, wearing "Brooklyn Sym-phony" sweatshirts, a nostalgic touch for the Dodger Sym-Phony, a group that once played in long-gone Ebbets Field, struck up several songs, including their classic "Three Blind Mice," which paid homage to umpires.

With both men cast permanently into bronze, color will remain forever irrelevant for the duo, just as it did in life.

"It's a great legacy and the statue completes it," Dorothy Reese said. "I just wish they were here."