Franklin, who is the hitting coach for the D-backs’ Low-A Visalia affiliate, had heard plenty of Jackie Robinson stories over the years, but what about the ones that aren’t as well-known? Wouldn’t they be even more interesting?
As part of an initiative called “D-backs for Change,” the organization has numerous Team Player Resource Groups, and the one Franklin is a member of is called Black Professionals & Allies. When he made his suggestion to the group, they convened a panel discussion, led by radio broadcaster Mike Ferrin with three people who either knew Robinson personally or had deep knowledge of Robinson’s life.
• Leroi Roscoe Chappelle, who is the stepfather of former Arizona general manager Dave Stewart. The soon-to-be 102-year-old Chappelle is a native of Phoenix and he competed against Robinson in college track meets.
• Dr. Raymond Doswell, the vice president of curatorial services for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
• Dr. Michael Long, the author and editor of the book “42 Today: Jackie Robinson & His Legacy.”
Chappelle first met Robinson when he was 15 or 16 years old and training for the U.S. Olympic high-jump team. Chappelle went to visit relatives in Los Angeles around that time and encountered Robinson.
The two later reconnected when Robinson was attending Pasadena Junior College and Chappelle was at Phoenix (Junior) College. The only time the two competed in the same event was a relay race in which he said he was fortunate enough to move Robinson to the middle of the dirt track where it was muddy, slowing Robinson down so he could beat him.
Dr. Doswell told the story of how Robinson, after being discharged from the Army in 1944, accepted a job as athletic director and basketball coach at Samuel Huston College. It wasn’t until the following year that the Kansas City Monarchs, their roster having been depleted by players serving overseas in the military, offered him a contract to play baseball.
Dr. Long told a touching story about the last moments of Robinson’s life as he hugged his wife, Rachel, and told her he loved her.