On this day in 1972, baseball legend Jackie Robinson passed away at his longtime home in Stamford, Connecticut. Today, Robinson is a household name, best known as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball and as one of the greatest all-around players of the game in American history. In 1947, when he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers after years of smashing records in the Negro Leagues and the Dodgers’ minor league farm team, Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier in the sport of baseball, which had relegated black players to the all-black Negro Leagues since the 1880s. During the ten years he played in the major leagues, he went on to become Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, and played in six World Series and six All-Star games.
Behind the scenes, however, Jackie Robinson fought against segregation off the baseball field as well as on it. Once he rocketed to national stardom in the late 40s, he and his wife Rachel lived in an upscale neighborhood in Queens, surrounded by famous African-American neighbors like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. But, like most American parents of the 1950s, they desired a more spacious home with a yard in a quiet suburban neighborhood where they could raise their children. However, when Rachel began searching for homes in the nearby wealthy — and mostly white — enclaves of Westchester County and Fairfield County, she quickly ran into resistance from realtors, who lied about housing availability, refused to show her houses, or in some cases outright ignored her repeated requests for information on homes that were clearly listed for sale.
After a local newspaper reporter included Rachel’s story in an article highlighting housing discrimination in Fairfield County, Dick and Andrea Simon, a wealthy white couple who lived in North Stamford, Connecticut, reached out to the Robinsons in order to provide whatever help and influence they could in finding them a house. With the Simon’s help, the Robinsons purchased a sprawling lot on Cascade Road in Stamford, where they proceeded to build a custom dream house. There, Jackie and Rachel raised their three children, who later in life recalled how happy they were growing up in Stamford. The Robinsons’ home featured a baseball glove-shaped swimming pool and a huge yard that was (of course) perfect for neighborhood baseball games. The Robinsons frequently held summertime lawn concerts featuring famous jazz musicians, and hosted numerous celebrities at their Stamford home, including Martin Luther King Jr. Jackie lived out the rest of his life in Stamford, passing away at the age of 53 on October 24, 1972 due to complications from years of dealing with heart disease and diabetes. His family eventually sold the Robinson home in 1984, and today, the town of Stamford honors one of its most famous residents with a town park named after Jackie Robinson, which contains a full-size statue of the beloved ballplayer.
“Jackie Robinson Buys a Home in Connecticut,” New England Historical Society
Martin B. Cassidy, “With ’42’ Movie Release, Robinson Remembered,” Stamford Advocate