Jackie Robinson Packs Up And Retires

A Classy Man Calls It A Career – January 7, 1957

55 Years Later- Remembering The December 13, 1956 Trade That Shocked New York

In this January 7, 1957 photograph Jackie Robinson packs up the contents of his locker from Ebbets Field, his home for his entire ten year major league career.

After the 1956 season Jackie Robinson’s legs were gone. He was no longer the player he once was and he knew it. He batted a respectable .275 with ten homers.  But rather than continue playing with eroding skills, Robinson would retire at the age of 37.

One problem: except for his family and future non-baseball employer, Robinson didn’t tell anyone of his decision.

The Dodgers shocked everyone including Robinson, with a December 13, 1956 trade to the New York Giants for Dick Littlefield and $35,000 for the Dodger legend.  After the trade announcement, fans of the Dodgers were outraged. Brooklynites believed that Robinson would retire rather than play for the hated crosstown rival Giants, but they did not know Robinson had already decided before the trade that he was retiring.

All Robinson would publicly say was he would “inform the Giants by January 14, if he would play in 1957.”

The reason Robinson couldn’t announce his retirement was because he had signed a contract to write an exclusive article for Look magazine, about his retirement in December which would not hit the newsstands until January 8.

When he announced his retirement on January 7, many Dodger fans were happy he would not be playing for the Giants.  Robinson said he had decided to take a position with Chock full O’Nuts as Vice President of personnel rather than play baseball.

Whether Robinson would have played for the Giants had he not retired is open to speculation.

click to read Robinson's letter

Robinson’s January 14, 1957 letter to Giants owner Horace Stoneham takes the high road. Robinson says he appreciates being offered the chance to play for the Giants, but he has “decided to devote his full time to business opportunities.”

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