This Day in Dodger History - Dec. 13, 1951

On December 13, 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers traded Jackie Robinson to the New York Giants for LHP Dick Littlefield and $35,000. The deal was cancelled when Robinson announced his retirement in January and retired to go into private business.

That is the cold, hard facts of the story. But there is much, much more to the story.

Fifty years ago, the Dodgers were coming off their second consecutive pennant in succession and their fourth in five seasons.

However, after winning the first two games of the 1956 World Series against the Yankees, they not only lost in seven games but suffered the first no-hit defeat in series history.

Robinson would singled in the only run in the last of the 10th inning in the sixth game of the series as Clem Labine topped New York 1-0 in 10 innings.

Robinson, who would turn 38 early in 1956, had been limited to only part-time action in 1955 and 1956 and had slipped below the .300 mark for the first time in six seasons.

Following the season, Robinson had left with the Dodgers for a twenty-game tour of Japan and was the favorite player of the Japanese fans. His wife, Rachel noted later, "I think he saw the tour as a culmination of his dodger career, especially after the World Series victory the year before. I think he knew the end was in sight."

True to his competitive spirit, he was the first Dodger ejected by an umpire in a game in Japan, although it was an American umpire, Jocko Conlan.

When the team was preparing to come home, he received a special message from the United State ambassador, John Allison, with thanks for "what you have done in this country." He praised his sportsmanship and noted he had helped to strengthen ties "between the people of Japan and the people of America."

Upon his return, he was awarded the NCAAP's highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, given annually to a black American whose achievements had brought credit to the race.

Just a few days later, he was approached by the president of a popular chain of coffee shops, "Chock Full o' Nuts" and offered the job as director of personnel. Robinson accepted the offer on December 10 and two years earlier had agreed to give the exclusive story of his retirement to Look Magazine.

Obviously, he would have to keep his retirement announcement a secret until the magazine would have time to publish the story. But then on December 11, Robinson was called to come into the Dodgers office the next day.

He told Dodger vice president Buzzie Bavasi he was tied up and could not see him immediately. He told his family about the retirement, then drove to Look Magazine to give them the story.

Later in the afternoon, he signed the contract with "Chock Full o' Nuts" and then received the call from Bavasi that he had been traded to the Giants.

"Congratulations," Bavasi told him. "You have been traded to the Giants. It will be in all the papers tomorrow."

He realized he had made the right decision to accept the job offer but the announcement shocked him as it did his teammates and Brooklyn fans all over the country.

The idea he was to be traded was bitter enough, but to be traded to their archenemy the Giants? It was unthinkable.

"We made the deal so we could play one of our younger players," Bavasi explained later. "As long as Jackie was on the club, the manager was going to play him."

Giants president Horace Stoneham phoned Robinson to express his delight with the trade and Robinson told him he would play for the Giants if he were going to play with anyone, but that he has signed a contract and was going to retire. He asked Stoneham to keep the story quiet.

He talked to the press as if he was going to be a Giant in 1957 but when the questions came too close to the truth, he took a trip to Los Angeles, hoping to honor his pledge to the magazine that they could break the news.

But their had been hard feelings on both sides of the situation in Brooklyn and the charade did nothing to alleviate that problem. And they got worse.

The Look article was finally leaked, but by an employee of the magazine and Dodger Owner Walter O'Malley privately dismissed him as a mercenary and an ingrate.

Bavasi was angry and said the Look article was used only to get more money out of the Giants.

The Giants responded by offering Robinson more money --- $65,000 -- than any Dodger had ever earned. but Robinson declined, noting the decision had "nothing to do with my trade to your organization.

Stoneham sent him a note saying he wished Robinson success and happiness but added, "I can't help thinking it would have been fun to have you on our side from now on."

He received many pleasant, personal letters from players, that echoed Phillie outfielder Richie Ashburn, who said "both on and off the field … your tangible and intangible qualities made you the greatest player I had ever had the pleasure of playing against."

Later in January, Robinson ventured back to Ebbets Field to clean out his locker. A photographer took his picture, seemingly alone as he ended a special chapter in Dodger history, with only the small, clubhouse cat on hand to watch his departure from the game he had changed for all time.

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