Thursday, April 13, 2017

1946 Questionnaire Filled Out by Don Newcombe at Jackie Robinson Auction

Among the throngs of Jackie Robinson memorabilia available at Goldin's current auction are collectibles featuring other notable leaders and athletes. In the Jackie Robinson Foundation auction you can find items related to tennis great Arthur Ashe, Alex Haley (writer of Roots), President Lyndon Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Abraham Lincoln, Harper Lee (writer of To Kill a Mockingbird), basketball great Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali. Additionally, there is the questionnaire you see on the right that had been filled out by Dodger great Don Newcombe in 1949 -- his rookie season. (auction link)

As you know, Newk played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. Per Lyle Spencer at
It was 28 days before Dr. King's assassination in 1968, and he was in the midst of peaceful protest speeches, marches and demonstrations. On his way home to Atlanta, with an evening to relax, Dr. King visited Newcombe and let him know what he, Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella had meant to the civil rights struggle.

"He said, 'Don, you'll never know how easy you and Jackie and Roy and Doby made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,'" Newcombe said. "After everything he'd been through, here he was telling me how we'd helped him with the movement. I'll never forget that."
In 1949 Don was just a 23-year old rookie still making his way through life and Baseball.  So naturally, the Baseball loving world wanted to know about him, and legendary Baseball statistician and biographer William J. Weiss was there to record it all.  Per a story I briefly wrote about Weiss last year:
Starting in the late-40's he compiled statistics and biographical information for ballplayers on the West Coast.  Soon he started working for various leagues; like the PCL, Pioneer League, Northwest League and the American Association.  He even became the official historian of the PCL and edited a weekly newsletter for the California League for over thirty years.  In an over four decade span Weiss produced over 200 sketchbooks filled with data on both minor and major league ballplayers.  Without his diligent work we might not have the wealth of information we have today.
Thankfully Weiss kept everything, and we now get to enjoy what a youthful Don Newcombe wrote about himself. Feel free to click on the questionnaire above to embiggen.

The first thing that jumped out at me is a nickname I never knew he had. Newcombe wrote that his nickname at the time was "Beef" -- which makes sense since he was a big guy. And as a reminder of how sad a time period this really was, he wrote in "Colored" when asked about his nationality.

As for who he owes the most for his Baseball career he mentions a former neighbor named John Grier, negro leaguer and Hall of Famer Raleigh "Biz" Mackey, and negro leaguer and Hall of Famer George "Mule" Suttles. BTW, I found this brief quote by Newcombe about neighbor Grier at the LA Times:
"I was fortunate to live next door to a man who was 12 or 14 years older than me that could golf, play tennis and baseball," Newcombe said. "He taught me how to control my pitches, how to hold runners on base. He even took me out with his girlfriend and his girlfriend's sister on dates when I was 15. He taught me how to be a man."
If you are interested in seeing other Weiss questionnaires I've written about then you can check out my post on Steve Garvey's questionnaire from 1970 here, and questionnaires from both Pee Wee Reese and Walter Alston here.

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