Segregation in Baseball didn't entirely end with Jackie Robinson. In fact, it was just the opening salvo in a movement to make the game an equal battlefield for all to play in. There were many hurdles still left to cross.
As I'm sure you know, Spring Training in those days was largely played in segregated Florida. As a result, ballplayers typically could not be housed or even eat under the same roof. As time went on that changed as some teams created their own facilities or found willing establishments. Still, in 1961, some 14 years after Jackie, housing in Florida remained unequal.
As evidenced by a collection currently available for sale through Goldin Auctions we discover how each team faired in leveling the housing playing field. In 1961 MLBPA approached each team to provide an update on how desegregating was going and this auction includes the official responses from every team (with exception of the Red Sox and Phillies). Check out the auction here. You'll notice that several clubs were still trying to work through this issue.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, were the bellwethers. There are two letters from the Dodgers, signed by GM Buzzie Bavasi and President Walter O'Malley, and they are pointed and hilarious. Considering how their club started it all, I am not surprised they responded in a snarky manner.
Above is the letter Walter O'Malley sent. He says:
Your letter of August 7th, I believe might be sort of in the nature of a form letter as it actually does not apply to our club which trains at Dodgertown, Vero Beach. You will recall from your visits that all our players, office staff, executives, directors and owners are housed and eat under one common roof.So, Dodgertown was way ahead of the curve.
A fascinating part of O'Malley's letter is what he writes next.
There are local city ordinances that are not in keeping with our thinking which, however, cover situations off our self-contained base. Our relations with the local political administration are not cordial at the moment and we have even been giving some thought to transferring our base to the West Coast unless we see signs of improvement.This is the first I've heard that in 1961 the Dodgers had considered moving out of Florida.
Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi's response to the MLBPA takes a more, shall I say, sarcastic road.
You folks must be out of your mind. We eat, sleep and drink under the same roof. That is the only reason we train at Dodgertown. You must know that. If you are referring to the motion picture theatre downtown, or the barber-shop however, we have these facilities at the Base. NOW GET LOST! (emphasis mine)As you know, management was not very fond of the players association, so this might have more to do with that then any sense of being annoyed with being asked.
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