What if Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in a White Sox uniform? How would that have altered baseball history? How about the impact it would have had on our magnificent city? Five years before his Dodger debut, and 70 years ago today, Jackie and pitcher Nate Moreland appeared at White Sox training camp at Brookside Park in Pasadena, Calif.
None of the major Chicago newspapers mentioned anything of the event. The American Communist Party's Daily Worker (which frequently attacked baseball's color line in print) was the only newspaper to cover it. A 1997 Chicago Tribune article "Chicago's 55-year-old Secret" credits the Daily Worker with setting up the attempted tryout, and according to Neil Lanctot in "Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution," Herman Hill, Los Angeles correspondent of the Pittsburgh Courier, accompanied the men to Pasadena.
The Tribune's 1997 writeup suggests Robinson & Moreland actually worked out for Sox skipper Jimmy Dykes, whereas Lanctot says they requested a workout which Dykes declined with the usual "it's up to the owners and Judge Landis" runaround, which is the more likely story. Arnold Rampersad's 1997 biography of Robinson acknowledges the attempted tryout, quoting Dykes as saying "I would welcome Negro players on the Sox, and I believe every one of the other fifteen big league managers would do likewise. As for the players, they'd all get along too."
But why then would Robinson fail to mention this in any of his autobiographical work? The Tribune article submits Robinson may not have wanted any connection with the Communist Party (whose newspaper, remember, was said to have a hand in the appearance). That's possible; unfortunately as all parties have since passed away, we can do little but ask "What if...?"