Saturday, April 20, 2013

Willie O'Ree - First Black Player in the National Hockey League - Meets Jackie Robinson - First Black Player in Major League Baseball

Now that the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, is out and in theaters, I am reminded of a story my friend, Willie O'Ree, told me about having the honor of meeting Mr. Robinson twice in his life. What makes this story interesting is that Willie is best known as the first black player in the National Hockey League.

When Willie was fourteen years old in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, his baseball team won the league championship. The team's reward was to go down to New York City to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play at Ebbets Field. 

Before the game, Jackie Robinson had a meet and greet session with the Fredericton champs. When it was Willie's turn to meet Mr. Robinson, he told the sports hero that he played hockey as well. Mr. Robinson said he didn't know that black kids played hockey. "They do in Canada," Willie said.

Many years later in 1962, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave a luncheon to honor the baseball legend and to commemorate the breaking of Major League Baseball's color line. 

Willie O'Ree was invited to attend the luncheon and Mr. Robinson remembered him from their earlier meeting thirteen years before. I wish I had a photo of that meeting of the sports icons to show you.

These two sports figures, confident in their places in history as integration pioneers, are what this country is sorely in need of today - worthy heroes who can bring us together as a nation.

Willie O'Ree - Canadian Interview Link:


42 trailer: