‘After Jackie’ — Racism in baseball, post-color barrier

How '60s Black ballplayers suffered, endured, triumphed

Andre Gaines is the executive producer/director of “After Jackie,” airing Saturday on History.

Jackie Robinson may have broken baseball’s color barrier in 1947 but racism persisted for the Black athletes who came behind him, a story told in a documentary upcoming on History.

“After Jackie,” a two-hour film airing Saturday, June 18, chronicles the lesser-known story of the second wave of talented Black ballplayers to come into the game, focusing on three who were integral cogs on the St. Louis Cardinals’ championship teams of the 1960s — Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, first baseman (and future National League president) Bill White and centerfielder Curt Flood — all of whom fought for racial equality and civil rights in and outside the game.

Through archival footage and interviews with former and current players including Ken Griffey Jr., Tim McCarver, Mookie Betts, CC Sabathia, Joe Torre, Al Downing and Dave Roberts, the film tells of the discrimination and often cruel treatment they endured and the extraordinary courage it took to stand up for their beliefs.

Jackie Robinson is featured in “After Jackie,” airing Saturday on History.

“We sort of have a status quo, general understanding of what Jackie Robinson did when it came to trying to create or push forward or advance racial equality in this country,” explains executive producer/director Andre Gaines (“The One and Only Dick Gregory”). “But there is a whole group that came after him that had to carry that torch in ways that we just take for granted nowadays. … To really understand what that means in a larger context when it comes to trying to achieve racial harmony in America, it’s an important part of the puzzle.”

Of the three, Flood probably suffered the most. The Cardinals’ sparkplug, he challenged baseball’s reserve clause, which tied a player to a team in perpetuity, when he refused to report after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. The timing was unfortunate — his case in the Supreme Court, which he lost, happened to coincide with a decline in on-field performance, and so Flood soon found himself out of baseball with no hope of getting back in.

“Curt was really standing strong on his beliefs of feeling like a well-paid slave or an indentured servant as a result of the reserve clause …,” Gaines says. “He lost everything. He went broke multiple times, exiled himself, ended up falling into drugs and alcohol and it had an incredible toll on his health.

“You know, Jackie Robinson died as a young man in his early 50s,” he continues, “a lot of it having to do with the stress he had to endure as being the first to break this barrier. And you have Curt Flood dying on a hill, falling on his sword for all of sport, for all athletes ultimately. … He was really one of the most underappreciated athletes to this day.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

Pin It on Pinterest