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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The basic truth of any movie based on a true story: Not everything makes the final cut.Bethune-Cookman University

As we celebrate the release of “42”, the Warner Brothers movie of Jackie Robinson’s epic accomplishments, here are a few additional details regarding Robinson’s 1946 spring training in Daytona Beach and the role of Bethune-Cookman and its founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

1)      While Robinson’s game at City Island Ballpark – which now bears his name – is the most famous, Robinson also played in Daytona Beach at Kelly Field, now the site of a recreational complex not too far from the Bethune-Cookman campus. Daytona Beach also hosted Spring Training for many Negro League teams back in the 1940s.

2)      Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune hosted Jackie and Rachel Robinson on campus numerous times, but the couple stayed at the home of Joe and Duff Harrisduring their Daytona Beach stay of 1946. Joe Harris was a pharmacist and influential leader alongside Dr. Bethune. The college would house many future baseball pioneers as segregation continued.

3)      Mrs. Robinson attended every spring training home game and almost every practice in which her husband played.  Simple reason: "That's where the drama was," she said.

4)      Robinson went through a horrendous hitting slump after the exhibition games began. When Robinson finally got a hit, Bethune-Cookman sent over supplies so that Mrs. Robinson could cook a celebratory dinner.

5)     However, Robinson was not the only African-American in the Dodgers’ 1946 camp. John Richard Wright, a pitcher who went 30-1 with the Homestead Grays in 1943, was also there to help Robinson deal with the overwhelming pressure. When Robinson was struggling, some of the media thought Wright might have been the better prospect. Wright spent less than a season with the Montreal Royals before being demoted and eventually returning to the Negro League.

6)      One of Robinson’s best days of spring training was a two-hit game in the Royals’ 6-1 victory over the Dodgers in April. Before that, he had a triple and scored two runs with a stolen base in  a 5-4 loss to the Jersey City Giants. What made that game interesting was that in addition to Robinson playing secondbase, the Royals had a Native American (Clarence Coat) playing in right field.

7)      Robinson returned to Bethune-Cookman in 1954 to receive an honorary degree.

8)      A quote from Pittsburgh Courier sports writer Wendell Smith about Daytona Beach and Dr. Bethune: “This progressive little resort on the banks of the beautiful Halifax River is now known as Florida's most liberal and American city ... the healthy racial atmosphere can be attributed to the excellent work done by the faithful and energetic Mary McLeod Bethune ... Without Mrs. Bethune and her college, Daytona Beach would probably be like Jacksonville to Robinson and Wright -- a city of prejudiced barriers.”


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