Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Quinn-Ives Act

The integration of Baseball had more heroes than just Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. Sure, Rickey was the mastermind and Jackie was the willing test subject who would have to endure the unthinkable, but there was more. They also had the help of the New York State legislature.

In 1945 the state of New York, with the help of Senator Irving Ives, passed the Quinn-Ives Act which effectively banned employment discrimination on the basis on race, creed, color and national origin. This watershed law opened the floodgates as they soon passed the Fair Employment Practices Act and Mayor La Guardia formed the Mayor's Commission on Baseball to study the integration of the Major Leagues. The political winds were now blowing at Branch Rickey's back.

Rickey, no doubt, become more emboldened in his desire to change the game for the good.
On the morning of March 13, 1945 Branch Rickey was drinking coffee and reading the newspaper in the spring training lodging at Bear Mountain. [Where the Brooklyn Dodgers had their very chilly spring training during the war] Suddenly, he looked up from his paper with an animated expression on his face. “What’s wrong dear?, Jane Rickey asked her husband, wondering what now was bothering her easily agitated mate. “It was in the paper, Mother, that Governor Dewey has just signed the Ives-Quinn Law!” he exclaimed. “They can’t stop me now.”
Soon thereafter the game found Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn and the game had changed for the better.

The below letter, being sold at auction at Clean Sweep, was drafted on May 3, 1945 and highlights this important law. He corresponds with, then General Manager of the Tigers, John Zeller.
"Here's a copy of the Quinn-Ives Law, related to prevention and elimination of practices of discrimination in employment and otherwise against persons because of race, creed, color and national origin, together with comments of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. It occurred to me that you might be interested in this."
This letter makes me wonder if he was planting the seeds of change in Michigan or was he trying to say to another team that his hands were tied. The Baseball old guard could not stop progress because New York State law demanded integration. After all, Branch Rickey had petitioned Baseball to allow him to integrate the league and he was voted down 15 to 1. (Of special note, then Commissioner Happy Chandler overrode the vote.) Click the pic below to enlarge it.
(click pic to enlarge)

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