Another part of Jackie Robinson's heroic legacy was celebrated on Monday, when U.S. diplomats unveiled a commemorative plaque at the apartment in which the baseball icon lived while playing in Montreal. Dozens of onlookers braved a wet winter day to be part of the ceremony, which honored an oft-forgotten part of baseball and civil rights history.
Robinson and his wife, Rachel, lived in Montreal during the 1946 season, his lone year in the Triple-A International League before he broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson batted .349 with 40 stolen bases and 113 runs scored in 124 games en route to being named the International League's Most Valuable Player.
The house, in the Villeray district not far from the site of old Delorimier Stadium, where a bronze plaque rests honoring Robinson's accomplishments, saw some distinguished guests on Monday. Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, was on hand for the ceremony, as were Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay and David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Officials read a letter from Rachel Robinson as part of the ceremony, and the contents of the missive expressed appreciation for the way the couple were received in Canada after their treatment in some southern sectors of the U.S.
Jacobson, speaking in his official capacity, said that the story underlines the common history of the two bordering nations.
"In some places in my country, he was treated shamefully," Jacobson said. "The people in this house and the people in this neighborhood and the people in Montreal were much better. They showed us the way. They gave all of us hope. They gave all of us renewal.
"But through the bravery of Jackie Robinson and so many others through the years, my country has changed, and changed for the better. I stand here as the representative of an African-American President of the United States. And I would dare say that in the summer of 1946, if somebody stood up here on this porch and said that that was going to happen someday, that everyone would have laughed. But what happened here was, quite frankly, a very important step on that journey."
Robinson was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame in 1960 and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 -- his first year of eligibility -- in recognition of his historic sporting and social accomplishments. Robinson, who served as a broadcaster and as an outspoken activist in his life after baseball, passed away in 1972 at the age of 53.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.