Number 42

Sam Maltin was a sports journalist for the Montreal Star and Herald newspapers as well as a stringer for various newspapers in theUnited States.   In addition to sports journalism, he was a long-time bridge columnist and reported on various social issues of the day.  A self-professed leftist journalist, Maltin had his home searched by police during the Duplessis Padlock era.

The year 1946 was a banner year for sports reporting in Montreal.  That summer the Montreal Royals baseball team broke records for attendance, batting averages and also witnessed the breaking of the colour barrier.  Jackie Robinson, number 42, arrived to play for the Royals, the farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, after being signed by Branch Rickey, the “Brooklyn Mahatma”, president, part owner and manager of the Dodgers.  After withstanding the not-unexpected obstacles in training camp and in exhibition games (Robinson was greeted by jeers, taunts and threats in many American stadiums), Robinson debuted in his first home game in Montreal on May 1, 1946 at Delormier Stadium.  Years later Maltin recalled the pandemonium after that first home game, “Here was a crowd ready to riot, demanding the appearance of their favourite…As soon as the crowd spied him they surged on him.  Men and women of all ages threw their arms around him.

But Maltin’s relationship with Robinson extended beyond reporting on the baseball diamond – when Robinson and his wife Rae arrived in Montreal, Sam Maltin and his wife Belle befriended the couple.  The friendship lasted even after the Robinsons departed when Jackie’s signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  In Sam Maltin’s small archival collection, donated by his wife Belle, are four carefully preserved letters from Jackie and Rae Robinson, including one describing the joy of the birth of the Robinson’s first son, Jack Jr.  That same letter refers to Jackie’s appreciation at his welcome by the people ofMontreal, writing that he wants, “…to thank all the people ofMontrealfor sticking by me.”

On October 5, 1946, Jackie Robinson led the Montreal Royals to the Junior World Series title in Montreal.  Sam Maltin, after watching his friend make history, reported that the scene at the stadium after the game was chaos.  Upon trying to leave the stadium to catch a train, Jackie was met by a huge crowd of fans clamouring for him.  Sam Maltin wrote that, “it was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on his mind.”

The Jackie Robinson letters, a treasure from the holdings of the Jewish Public Library Archives.  The JPL was founded in 1914 and preserves the social, cultural and educational history of Jewish Montreal.  To learn more about us visit: www.jewishpubliclibrary.org/archives.

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