April 10 is an historic day, not just for the Dodgers franchise, but also for baseball and society at-large.
April 10. Another day on the calendar. One that would pass without meaning for most people unless it falls on a day of religious significance. But for Dodgers fans, and baseball fans, alike, April 10 is its own holy holiday, a day that symbolizes the beginning of new life.
On April 10, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the 20th century to sign a Major League contract, five days before making his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking the color barrier in baseball.
Fifteen years later, on April 10, 1962, Dodger Stadium opened its doors for the first time in front of 52,564 fans in Los Angeles.
Breaking the color barrier
Jackie Robinson‘s contract was purchased from the Dodgers farm club, the Montreal Royals, officially on April 11, but agreed upon and announced to the press on April 10. The initial press release was straight-forward in announcing the historic moment.
“The Brooklyn Dodgers today purchased the contract of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson from the Montreal Royals.”
Branch Rickey made the announcement during the fifth inning of an exhibition contest at Ebbets Field between the Dodgers and Royals. The contract was worth $5,000. Robinson was coming off an amazing season with the Royals in which he batted .349 and stole 40 bases.
While Robinson was aware that he could be brought up to the Dodgers, Rickey made the announcement on a whim during the game before informing the future Hall-of-Famer.
The speedy infielder would make his Major League debut on April 15 against the Boston Braves, playing first base, going 0-3 at the plate, but scoring a run after reaching base on an error.
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Dodger Stadium Opens
Dodger Stadium has a complicated history, representing a landmark for baseball in Los Angeles, while also a construction project that forcefully removed Mexican-Americans from their homes in Chavez Ravine. You can’t honor the beginning of Dodger Stadium without paying respect to the lives impacted by the creation of the stadium.
But on April 10, 1962, baseball was reborn in Los Angeles when the Dodgers hosted the Cincinnati Reds in front of 52,564 fans to officially open Dodger Stadium.
The project dreamed up by Dodgers president Walter O’Malley had finally become reality. The first game spoiled by a three-run home run by Wally Post in the 7th inning to put the Reds ahead for good.
Dodger Stadium was the first Major League stadium since Yankee Stadium to be built entirely on private financing. It took three years to construct.
After playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for their first three seasons upon arriving from Brooklyn, the Dodgers won 102 games during their inaugural season in their new home, finishing one game shy of the hated Giants for the National League pennant. Despite the second place finish, it was the Boys in Blue’s best season since moving to California.
Dodger Stadium is currently the third oldest ballpark behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, although it has been renovated over the years. An ambitious $100 million renovation plan to the centerfield plaza is expected to be finished whenever baseball returns in 2020 or 2021.
Special thanks to the New York Daily News and Los Angeles Times archives for providing background information for this article.