Dodgers Dugout: The 25 greatest Dodgers of all time, No. 10: Pee Wee Reese
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 10 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 10: Pee Wee Reese (24 first-place votes, 12,929 points)
Pee Wee Reese is a Hall of Fame shortstop and an iconic member of the “Boys of Summer.” That alone is good enough to make him one of the greatest Dodgers of all time, but there’s another reason too: His actions before and after Jackie Robinson joined the team.
In spring training of 1947, a few Dodgers signed a petition that threatened a players’ boycott if Robinson joined the team. When it came time for Reese to sign, he refused, later saying, “If he’s man enough to take my job, I’m not gonna like it, but, black or white, he deserves it.”
But the most famous moment in the Reese-Robinson friendship came in 1947 in Cincinnati (some sources dispute the location and date, but no one denies it happened). During pre-game infield practice, Robinson was taking his usual verbal abuse from the crowd. Reese, a Southerner from Kentucky with friends attending the game, walked over to Robinson and put his arm around him while talking to him, a gesture that silenced much of the crowd.
Years later, when asked about it, Reese said, “I was just trying to make the world a little bit better. That’s what you’re supposed to do with your life, isn’t it?”
Reese died in 1999. At his funeral, Joe Black, one of the first African American pitchers in the majors and a former teammate of Reese, said: “Pee Wee helped make my boyhood dream come true to play in the majors, the World Series. When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro League smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, ‘Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.’ With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts.”
For more on the life of Pee Wee Reese, read this article by Rob Edelman.
Note: I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Next up (on Thursday) is No. 9, one of the most beloved Dodgers of all time and the first of four pitchers in the top 10.
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