Watch rare footage of Jackie Robinson's Spring Training with Montreal Royals

June 25th, 2024

Always bring your camera to the ballpark. You never know what historic moment you’ll capture. That’s what Robert Bates Sr. learned – and taught the rest of us – 78 years ago.

Filming his sons George and Robert Jr. as batboys on April 2, 1946, the elder Bates also recorded moments of Jackie Robinson’s first Spring Training in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

The footage – shared with by the Bates family via the Daytona Tortugas – shows Robinson stepping to the plate wearing No. 9 as a member of the Montreal Royals at what was then called City Island Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Fla. Later in the clip, Robinson laces a base hit to the outfield before scrambling back to first base on a throw.

Six months earlier, Robinson signed with Montreal (Brooklyn’s Triple-A affiliate) after spending the previous season with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. The Dodgers organization attempted to get Robinson in Florida Spring Training games in Sanford and Jacksonville but were unsuccessful due to local segregation ordinances. With help from Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune -- co-founder of Bethune-Cookman University and an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt – the club was able to schedule games at Daytona Beach in 1946. The Dodgers moved to Havana, Cuba, for Spring Training in 1947 and then to Dodgertown in Vero Beach in 1948, where they remained through 2008.

Robinson hit .349/.468/.462 with three homers and 40 steals over 124 games for Montreal during that 1946 season. He debuted for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947, and spent 11 years with the club on his way to Cooperstown.

Daytona’s stadium, which is now in use by the Reds' Single-A affiliate in the same spot along the Halifax River, was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 1990 to honor the legend’s brief time in the seaside city.