If one is looking to sell a Jackie Robinson item, there can't possibly be a better time than this very moment. With 42 now in theaters, a gold-framed window of opportunity has opened for someone looking to be financially dispossessed of their Robinson-related things.
With that in mind, let's look at the 10 Robinson items currently on eBay I have deemed most worthy of our attention. They are presented in more or less chronological order, by year of their creation.
1936 high school yearbook
This edition of the Muir Tech Sequoain (Pasadena, California) contains pictures of Robinson participating in his four letter sports: baseball, football, basketball and track. Outside of school, he was also an accomplished tennis player, though one has to wonder where he found the time.
1940 college yearbook
In this age of athletic specialization, it's hard to imagine a college athlete today lettering in more than one sport, although many do so in two. Three, though? It's almost unthinkable. Robinson lettered in four sports while at UCLA, although he famously hit just .097 in his one year of Bruins baseball. (There is also a 1941 edition available.)
1941 All-Star Football Game program
Were the Cubs the first Chicago pro team Robinson ever faced? Nope. It was the Bears. In 1941, he was selected to play in the annual College All-Star Game against the Bears, a powerhouse team that had just dismantled the Redskins 73-0 in the NFL title game (that annual preseason exhibition game lasted until 1976). The Bears were so good, they would go on to repeat in 1941 season, losing only one game. The All-Stars held their own in front of over 92,000 fans, though, trailing just 13-6 at the half. They pulled to within 16-13 early in the fourth quarter when Charley O'Rourke of Boston College connected on a 40-yard pass to Robinson at the Bears' 6-yard line, from where the UCLA star took it the rest of the way for the score. In the end, Hall of Famer Sid Luckman's passing proved to be too much and Chicago heaped on three late scores to win 37-13.
Our World magazine, May 1947
The very title of this publication, begun the same year Robinson entered the Dodgers organization, 1946, pretty much comes right out and tells you all you need to know. African-Americans were so marginalized by the mainstream media that they might as well have been on another planet. Robinson helped change that, of course.
Bond Bread advertisement
And yet, at the same time, it obviously didn't take long for Madison Avenue to get Robinson into the endorsement game. Since he was the Dodgers first baseman' only in 1947 and parts of 1948, this Bond Bread ad probably dates from the latter year, as Branch Rickey had prohibited Robinson from endorsing anything in his rookie season.
Old Gold Cigarettes advertisement
This also led to one of those things that we moderns find so amusing: athletes hawking cigarettes. Robinson was no exception in this regard. Don't worry, there are things about our current culture that future types will find equally ironic and amusing. We should note that Jackie didn't smoke; whether that makes his endorsement of cigarettes less or more admirable, we'll leave to you. Arnold Rampersad, Robinson's best biographer, has written that these 1948 advertisements "were perhaps the first commercial messages aimed at the mass market using a black man or a black family as their spokespersons."
It wasn't long, either, before Robinson was generating souvenirs. As baseball collectibles go, this one is especially dynamic.
Letter to souvenir seeker
You've got to love this Jackie Robinson letterhead. In a way, it's 50 years ahead of its time, because by putting his picture on his personalized stationery, it's almost as though you're looking at a Facebook message from Robinson.
Still from The Jackie Robinson Story
The hardest acting gig is playing yourself. (Question: When you play yourself in your own biopic, does that turn it into an autobiopic?) Ruby Dee, who is pictured here playing Jackie's wife, Rachel, was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in American Gangster, 57 years after this film was made.
It's always something of a miracle when these bats come to us with their decals intact, simply because they were not designed to do so. The decal was merely a label, a way to get a customer to notice the product. Once you bought it, the decal was supposed to go away, either by immediate stripping (so that the device looked like a real bat and not something you just bought at a store) or through the attrition of use. And yet, here is Robinson still smiling away on the wood grain more than half a century later. Do any of the world's holy reliquaries hold anything as great?