BASN Negro League Spotlight: A Conversation with Jim Robinson

By Tony McClean
Updated: May 14, 2005

Jim Robinson Photo courtesy of “Legends of The Negro Leagues”.

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — It’s amazing what just a little shopping can do. While searching for some Mother’s Day presents last weekend, I walked into The Urban Entrepreneur Mini Mall in my hometown and got a special treat.

The store, located on 287 Dixwell Avenue in the city, included several black-owned businesses including a book store, a clothing dealer, a gift shop, and what really caught my eye, loads of Negro League memorabilia.

In fact as I came in, I saw an ex-Negro Leaguer signing autographs. Just a few weeks ago, Jim Robinson along some of his fellow teammates from the old Philadelphia Stars franchise were being honored at Shea Stadium.

As part of their “Black History Night” on April 22nd, the Mets commemorated the contributions of African Americans to contemporary society and in baseball. Among some of Robinson’s Philly teammates that attended the event were Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glenn, and Bill Cash.

A standout at North Carolina A&T, Robinson also played with the Indianapolis Clowns and Kansas City Monarchs during his Negro League career. As Jim’s college career was coming to a close in 1952, he was slated to play for Hall of Famer Oscar Charleston and the Stars.

However, Robinson suffered an arm injury just days before his scheduled debut. A third baseman, Jim would later join the Stars’ infield in August and played in the season’s final eight games.

In fact, the New York native made his professional debut in Yankee Stadium.

A year later, Jim joined the Indianapolis Clowns in a post season barnstorming tour of approximately 30 games. His play was so impressive that he was signed to a minor league contract by the St. Louis Cardinals.

AFTER JACKIE “I played during the era after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the majors”, Robinson added. “What people didn’t realize is that the teams in the West like Kansas City (Monarchs), Memphis (Red Sox) and Birmingham (Black Barons) were still playing and still thriving The teams in the East were the one most directly affected by Jackie’s signing.”

“A lot of those teams like the New York Cubans, Newark Eagles and Homestead Grays folded because Jackie was playing in Brooklyn. By the time the fifties came around, most of those teams were finished. The Stars were probably one of the last Eastern teams to hang in there and survive”.

After a two-year stint in the Army that began in 1953, Robinson continued his Negro League career with the Kansas City Monarchs. Playing both second and short for K.C. in 1956, Jim was a West All-Star selection at the East-West Classic in Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1957 and 1958 Robinson was named a team captain. He was again selected to represent the West in both the East-West All-Star Games those seasons (which were both played at Comiskey Park). He was cited for the “Most Outstanding Defensive Play” while playing shortstop for the West in the 1958 game.

“Playing with the Monarchs and in Kansas City was very fulfilling for me”, Robinson said. “It gave me a chance to see the Midwest and other parts of the country. I’ve always been a great fan of jazz music and I got my fill of that while playing in K.C.”

A MAN OF LEISURE Following the end of his playing career, Robinson would return to the Big Apple. He worked for the New York City Housing Authority for nearly three decades. Also during that time, Robinson worked in the mental health field while attaining his college degree.

However, baseball was never far away from him. In 1988, he began coaching the sport at South Carolina State University. He also served as a teacher of criminal justice for seven years at the Orangeburg-based school.

Robinson finally retired from the work field in 1994 and became what he described as “a man of leisure”. He added that he plays a lot of golf and attends several baseball card shows and autograph sessions over the years.

Not a bad life for a fellow who began his days in baseball on the sandlots of NYC.

NOTE: For more information on the Urban Entrepreneur Mini Mall, call (203) 685-7324 or (203) 685-7328.