John Gampert Watercolor 2009
On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball and became the first African American to start a game outside of the Negro League. After starting the game at first base for the Dodgers he ended the year by being awarded the very first Rookie of the Year. He would go on to become a six-time All-Star, MVP, and play in six World Series championships. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, the first time he was on the ballot.
Even more interesting to me is his military career. He was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit. He faced discrimination when applying to the Officer Candidate School, but was eventually accepted with some help from Heavyweight Champion and friend Joe Louis. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the prestigious, though segregated, 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion.
However, he never saw action on the front lines. In 1944 he boarded an integrated Army bus, but was ordered by the driver to the back of the bus. He refused and faced a court-martial. Read that again. He refused to move to the back of a US Army UNsegregated bus and faced a court-martial.
His commanding officer refused to authorize legal action so he was quickly transferred to another battalion with a commander that would. The Black Panthers Tank Battalion went on to be the first black tank unit in World War II and obtained high honors without him. Eventually the charges were reduced and he was acquitted by an all-white panel. I guess this prepared him for what he was up against while facing racism in Major League Baseball.
The artist is John Gampert, an American illustrator. He’s best known for his paperback book covers, including many, many Star Wars books. Although it is sometimes listed as an acrylic painting, it seems to obviously be watercolor. Since he was an illustrator I suppose it could be acrylic ink, but I can’t seem to find much definitive information. You can also find this painting sometimes cropped to just show Robinson’s portrait. I like the whole painting so you can see a little of Ebbets Field and some of his teammates.
UPDATE: I have verification from the artist’s son Erik that this IS acrylic. Thanks for the information, Erik! If you would like to order a copy of the print, you can do so here: John Gampert
Happy Jackie Robinson Day!