armory archives

It was over 65 years ago that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, marking an end to the sport’s policy of racial segregation.

With the movie “42” in theatres, and the incredible story of Jackie Robinson’s rookie year with the Dodgers fresh in the public imagination, we thought it fitting to pull out this wonderful picture of Jackie and his wife Rachel (who figures prominently in the movie) enjoying themselves at the Park Avenue Armory in 1951. Robinson participated in a benefit event to raise money for the American National Theater and Academy held at the Armory. The theme was a tennis exhibition with stars from sports, radio, TV, movies, and theater participating.

As The New York Times reported, “Jackie Robinson made his New York debut as a tennis player last night and surprised 3,000 spectactors at the Seventh Regiment Armory with his skill on the court.”

Robinson played a match against William Talbert, a member of the Davis Cup team, but the game was far from regulation - Robinson took the court with a racquet while Talbert played with a baseball bat. “Talbert found it necessary to discard the bat,” The New York Times wrote, “and throw the ball across the net before was able to gain the upper hand.”