Jackie Robinson’s arrival in the Major Leagues was met with a torrent of racial abuse for the first black man to break baseball’s color line.
There were verbal attacks, hate mail every day. And then, there was one letter that was different, one letter that expressed support, one piece of mail that actually was a fan letter.
David Rabinowitz, a civil rights lawyer and Democratic national committeeman from Sheboygan, Wis. sat down one day in 1953 and sent the letter to tell Robinson how much his son admired the Dodgers star.
Robinson was so moved by it that he answered the letter. He sent an autographed picture and a note that said the next time the Dodgers were in Milwaukee, he’d like to meet the youngster. And thus began a remarkable relationship between a Major League star and a 7-year-old kid.
On the Dodgers’ next trip, David Rabinowitz took his son to the game. They waited outside the clubhouse after the game and when Robinson emerged, Ronnie Rabinowitz introduced himself and said to Robinson “Remember me?’’
The Dodger star did and urged the youngster to stay in touch. He did, addressing a letter in 7-year-old fashion “Jackie Robinson, Stamford, Ct.’’ with no address and no zip code. It found its way to Robinson and the player replied. Ron Rabinowitz and Jackie Robinson were now full-fledged pen pals
“We were so different,’’ Ron Rabinowitz once reflected.” I was white. He was Black. I was Jewish. He was Christian. I was a kid. He was an adult. I was from a little town in the Midwest. He was from a big city in the East. And yet, there was this bond of friendship and love.’’
When Ron Rabinowitz turned 10 years old, his dad took him to a Dodgers game in Milwaukee. Robinson homered and as he rounded the bases, he waved to the youngster. That night, Robinson showed up at Ron’s birthday party and sang “Happy Birthday,’’ to his pal. Ron was flabbergasted and called it the best birthday of his life. There was a congratulatory letter for Ron’s Bar Mitzvah in 1960, well after the Dodgers star retired from baseball. They had created an unbreakable bond.
There were dinners and frequent visits, sleepovers. When Robinson wrote to Ron, the letters always ended with “Always, Jackie.’’
Rabinowitz used that phrase as the title of a book describing the relationship between two very different people who found a common interaction that lasted a lifetime.
Jackie Robinson died in 1972 at the age of 53. Ron Rabinowitz died last week. He was 76.