Jackie Robinson's Ballpark

How a Florida Stadium Was Restored.

Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues, playing his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, he achieved an important milestone on his journey to baseball immortality at City Island Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Fla. It was there, on March 17, 1946, that Robinson played his first game as a member of the Dodgers' minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals.

The game was of no small significance. In the preceding days, Robinson had tried to play with the Royals in nearby Sanford, but the police chief threatened to cancel the game if he took the field. When the team tried to play in Jacksonville, the players discovered the stadium padlocked. In Deland, a game was suspiciously called because of faulty electrical lighting. Finally, at City Island Ballpark, Robinson took his position on the field alongside his white teammates, sending an important message in the era of Jim Crow and racial injustice.

City Island Ballpark, built in 1914, still survives, but the 4,200-seat stadium recently needed extensive renovation work. A group called the Friends of Daytona Baseball initiated an extensive $19.3 million restoration, funded in part by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. Workers rehabilitated the grandstand, playing field, stadium seats, scoreboard, and other stadium features, preserving the scale and feel of the ballpark circa the 1940s, when Robinson made history there. The project also included the construction of a museum to honor Robinson's achievement.

Today, the stadium hosts the Daytona Cubs, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, which assumed management of the rehabilitation project from the friends group. Jackie Robinson Stadium, as it's now called, stands as the only surviving ballpark where Robinson played.

Read our cover story about Negro League history 

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