Sorry, 42: Council apologizes for Phillies' race-baiting of Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson with Jackie Jr.

Sixty-nine years ago, Jackie Robinson faced some of the most abhorrent racism of his baseball career during a game against the Phillies, when the team's manager led the players in hurling taunts and racial slurs.

On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council apologized.

"Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Philadelphia," reads the resolution unanimously passed Thursday, "that City Council hereby recognize, honor and celebrate April 15, 2016 as a day honoring the lifetime achievements and lasting influence of Jackie Robinson, and apologizing for the racism he faced as a player while visiting Philadelphia."

The resolution will be sent to Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson.

April 15 is widely recognized as Jackie Robinson Day, the day in 1947 when he broke the color barrier and became the first black man to play major-league baseball since the 1880s. Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey had challenged the baseball world by signing him.

When the Phillies traveled to Brooklyn early that 1947 season, Phils manager Ben Chapman led the bench in crude taunting of Robinson such as, "Go back to the cotton fields," and "They're waiting for you in the jungles, black boy." The scene was captured in 42, the 2013 movie about Robinson's life.

"I have to admit that this day," Robinson wrote in 1972 of his first encounter with the Phils, "of all the unpleasant days of my life brought me nearer to cracking up than I have ever been. For one wild and rage-crazed minute I thought 'To hell with Mr. Rickey's noble experiment.' "

In May, when the Dodgers came to Philadelphia to play, Robinson was refused a room at the hotel where the team was staying, forcing the Dodgers to scramble to find him other accommodations. Major League Baseball, concerned over the publicity from the first Phillies-Dodgers series, prompted Chapman and Robinson to meet for a photo opportunity.

"Philadelphia was one of the most disappointing places where he experienced racism," said Councilwoman Helen Gym, who introduced the resolution. "And I felt like it was important for City Council to acknowledge that, to acknowledge a great man. And that sometimes can start with an apology."

The resolution's intended recipient, Rachel Robinson, is now 93 and recently joined President Obama on his historic trip to Cuba, one of several baseball figures who joined the delegation to the island.

tnadolny@phillynews.com

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@TriciaNadolny