Jackie’s wife, yes, but Rachel Robinson herself is a revelation. Happy 100th!
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, July 19. I’m Andrew J. Campa, a metro reporter writing from the San Gabriel Valley (hola, 626!).
Today, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game makes its long-awaited return to Los Angeles for only the third time, marking its first appearance since 1980. For those who weren’t alive for the last visit (👋🏼), the game’s history and its present have merged for a weeklong celebration that includes celebrity visits (Bad Bunny 🐇🐰 smashed a couple of singles in the celebrity softball game) and tributes to the hometown team’s heroes (legendaryDodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will start).
If you haven’t checked out our All-Star Game coverage, led by sports editor Iliana Limón Romero, you’re missing out. Here’s a link to our complete coverage.
This year, Major League Baseball paid tribute to former Dodger and groundbreaking icon Jackie Robinson on the 75th anniversary of his breaking baseball’s color barrier. The alumnus of John Muir Tech (it’s a Stang Thang!), Pasadena Junior College (where his career was covered by fellow student and eventual renowned Los Angeles Times motor sports writer Shav Glick) and UCLA made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut on April 15, 1947.
He was asked by then-Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey whether he had “guts enough not to fight back” and endured years of racist taunts. Onetime Dodgers publicist Irving Rudd said Robinson’s fortitude and silence came at a high price: “I am certain that Jackie’s forced cool during those first seasons in Brooklyn cost him a couple of decades of his life.”
Without Jackie Robinson, baseball’s integration may very well look different from what will be on display this afternoon. The All-Star rosters include a mix of Black, Latin American and biracial stars along with arguably the game’s best player in Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim).
One figure often mentioned in baseball’s integration story is Rachel Isum, who grew up in South Los Angeles and enjoyed visiting Exposition Park’s Rose Garden as a little girl. In 1946, she took the name most know her by, Rachel Robinson, when she married Jack Roosevelt Robinson. They had met at UCLA in 1941 and wed in 1946 shortly before they left together for spring training in Daytona Beach, Fla.
She was also later known for her fierce advocacy against housing discrimination when she detailed the hurdles and closed doors she and her husband faced while trying to buy a home in New York and Connecticut. An interview with the Bridgeport Herald newspaper resulted in an exposé on racism within the housing market and cleared the way for the couple to buy a home in North Stamford, Conn.
What is often missed, however, are the individual medical accomplishments achieved by Rachel Robinson.
Dr. Seth S. Tannenbaum, an assistant professor of sport studies at New York’s Manhattanville College, recently wrote about those issues in an article titled “This Jackie Robinson Day, let’s celebrate Rachel Robinson, too.”
Rachel Robinson was front and center in celebrations on April 15, officially Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, joining the Dodgers in pregame ceremonies at Chavez Ravine.
Yet her story often neglects her breakthrough achievements in medicine.
Tannenbaum noted the rarity of a Black woman in the 1940s graduating with a nursing degree as she did from UCLA in 1945.
After taking time off to raise her three children, Rachel Robinson continued her education and enrolled at New York University before graduating with a psychiatric nursing degree in 1961. She continued her career as a researcher at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Here, according to Tannenbaum, she was a member of a team that produced the first American studies on “whether acutely ill psychiatric patients could thrive while living at home with their families and receiving daily inpatient treatment.”
“The work that she was doing seems just so utterly important,” Tannenbaum said. “To help find a way for people to live with their families and receive the treatment they need and their families get the support they need is just so incredibly important.”
Rachel Robinson’s days in the office were followed by nights at home taking care of her children and her mother, Zellee, who was living with the family.
After her groundbreaking work, Rachel Robinson became the Connecticut Mental Health Center’s director of nursing. She held that position while also serving at Yale University as an assistant professor of nursing.
She would remain in nursing until Jackie Robinson’s death in 1972. She quit Yale after his death and eventually founded a construction company that built affordable housing, completing a dream of her husband’s. Rachel Robinson had many other accomplishments, including founding the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973.
Since its inception, the foundation has provided more than1,800 scholars with more than $100 million in grants. Recipients have attended 260 colleges and universities, according to the foundation.
Tannenbaum noted that Rachel Robinson’s success in nursing didn’t “fit into the broader Robinson narrative of racial integration or sport.” Rachel Robinson’s accomplishments in that field are often overlooked, he added.
Rachel Robinson is celebrating her 100th birthday today. If you watch today’s Major League All-Star Game, take a moment to remember the breadth of her accomplishments — mother, civil rights activist, housing advocate, educational philanthropist and accomplished medical professional.
As former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully would say, “Now let’s get back to the game.”
Here’s what’s happening across California:
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The commander of the scandal-plagued California National Guard is stepping down. Maj. Gen. David Baldwin has presided over a series of scandals over the last 3½ years. His departure comes on the heels of a Times investigation that detailed the most recent run of embarrassing episodes for the Guard, including allegations in the officer ranks of abuse of authority, homophobia, anti-semitism and racism. Los Angeles Times
A philanthropist and a wealthy real estate developer decided to take a swing at fixing Los Angeles’ homeless problem. So, they planned to convert a closed Sears in Boyle Heights, known for its iconic green glowing sign, into a homeless rehabilitation shelter that could help up to 10,000 people at a time. The “Los Angeles Life Rebuilding Center” would include mental health and drug abuse services, job training, a store, a pharmacy and a police substation. The proposal would seemingly provide hundreds, if not thousands, of local jobs and would not cost the city government a dime. The plan was missing one thing, though: community input. When Anaheim’s Bill Taormina, who’s helped house hundreds of homeless in Orange County, presented the plan to Boyle Heights residents, they told him to “take that to Beverly Hills.” A plan that seemed so close to being realized is now in flux after community backlash. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
The Port of Oakland was the scene of a trucker protest that included more than 100 participants. The truckers were protesting California’s controversial AB5 law written in 2019. The drivers say this will force independent contractors to identify themselves as employees of a company. Many owner-operators say they enjoy being independent, though critics have responded that the trucking industry has denied benefits to many employees. Mercury News
Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno sees an opening to place a 2% tax on tickets to theme parks (ahem, Disneyland) now that former Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned in May. The tax would help erase cutbacks made to public libraries and probably add more police and fire personnel. The potential tax measure will be discussed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Orange County Register
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
Residents inside a Rancho Peñasquitos condominium are wondering why it took San Diego Police over 1½ hours to respond to a distress call of a man breaking into the home of 45-year-old Nahal Connie Dadkhah on June 14. The officers left after 15 minutes without establishing contact with Dadkhah. The next call to police came 12 hours later to report Dadkhah’s death. San Diego Union-Tribune
Three shootings in Fresno overnight from Sunday evening into Monday morning have police perplexed. A 12-year-old boy who was attending a birthday party was taken to a hospital and reported to be in critical condition. Fresno Bee
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
While the Roman Catholic Church has been an ardent opponent of abortions for decades, Catholic believers, and Latinos in particular, have become more supportive of abortion rights in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. The Public Religion Institute of Washington, D.C., noted that findings from a recent poll suggest support has jumped from 51% in 2010 to 75% for Latinos Catholics, who believe abortions should be legal in most or all cases. From this same poll, only 13% said they consult church leaders for discussion on the matter. In terms of dogma, 32% of Latino Catholics say they are bound by faith in such decisions. That number stands in stark contrast to white evangelical Protestants, who register at 73%. A total of 2,038 Americans were surveyed, including 241 Latinos, 104 of whom said they were Catholic. These results suggest that stereotypes of the faithful Latino Catholic need revision. Religion News Service
Shark sightings closed part of Huntington Beach on Monday afternoon. A shark was spotted at 12:30 p.m. Protocols call on the city to close the beach for one mile in each direction after a sighting. Los Angeles Times
Comic-Con is back! After a two-year COVID-19 break, the phenomenon returns to San Diego beginning Thursday. Event-goers must be ready to mask up and show vaccination proof or a negative test within 72 hours. Some big companies won’t be attending, but Comic-Con is planning on hosting some its biggest panels ever. San Diego Union-Tribune
There may be no better time to launch a Sierra wildness getaway. For the avid hiker, the locale is quite a paradise, about 7,500 feet above sea level and half an hour to an hour away from shuttle buses to the chair lifts that feature picturesque Mammoth Mountain. Red’s Meadows Resort, which offers a store, cafe, cabins, motel and 60 horses and mules, is calling. Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles: 85, partly cloudy. San Diego: 75, mostly sunny. San Francisco: 67, partly cloudy. San Jose: 83, sunny. Fresno: 107, sunny. Sacramento: 101, sunny.
Today’s California memory is from Susan Hirsch:
In the 1940s there was a riding stable on Jefferson near Sepulveda. Our horses knew the game we played in the deserted hills. My father was the Sheriff; we were Outlaws. Just beyond the stable, the Outlaws galloped off, my father in pursuit. Before returning, we’d dismount to cool down our horses. Once our horses bolted before an Outlaw got completely on. He got one foot in the stirrup and hung on to the other side of the saddle. The more we chased, the faster his horse galloped. We arrived looking like the Sheriff had captured two Outlaws alive and one dead.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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