When Robinson first arrived in New York, he lived for a time with Nazarene's then-assistant pastor, the Rev. Lacy Covington and his wife, Florence. "Church and faith were central to Jackie Robinson's success," said Tony Carnes, who publishes an online magazine called A Journey Through NYC Religions.
Nazarene was considered a "mink coat church" at the time, Tillard said, with an educated, affluent black congregation. Robinson later came back to the church to "make an impassioned speech about the dangers of drugs," Tillard said. Robinson's son, Jack, who had served in the Vietnam War, was a heroin addict.
GRAVE SITE: Robinson died in 1972, just a year after his son died in a car accident. They are buried, along with the Covingtons and Robinson's mother-in-law, in Cypress Hills Cemetery. "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives," reads the inscription on Robinson's tombstone. Mementoes left by fans at the grave include a bat and baseballs, with one ball bearing a handwritten note thanking Robinson "for being an inspiration, strong and courageous."
The cemetery entrance is 833 Jamaica Ave., Brooklyn, near the Cypress Hills stop on the J subway line, also reachable via the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Robinson's plot is in section 6 on the Queens side of the graveyard, on Jackie Robinson Way near Cypress Road, across from a large stone mausoleum near a low black fence, tall evergreen tree and hedge row. A map can be found at http://nycin60.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/chcmap.png.
EBBETS FIELD AND WASHINGTON PARK: Robinson retired after the 1956 season. Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, still a much-hated name in parts of New York City, moved the team to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. The park was replaced by an apartment complex at 1720 Bedford Ave., in Crown Heights, where a stone in a wall is inscribed with the words: "This is the former site of Ebbets Field."
Ron Schweiger, Brooklyn's borough historian, grew up going to Dodger games at Ebbets Field and met Robinson several times. As a Brooklyn public school teacher, he used Robinson's story to teach his students about civil rights. Recalling a recent visit to the Ebbets Field site, Schweiger said that "if you go up the stairs and into the courtyard, you'd be standing in right field. When you walk closer to the entrance to the building and look at the sign over to the right of the doorway, there's a sign: 'No radio playing. No bike riding. No ball playing.'"
Long before Ebbets Field existed, beginning in 1883, Brooklyn's baseball team played in Washington Park, which is better known as a Revolutionary War site for the Battle of Brooklyn. George Washington's troops were defeated here in 1776 by the British, who used as their base an old Dutch farmhouse now known as the Old Stone House. After the ballpark was built, the Old Stone House served as a clubhouse for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Washington Park is located at Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope (nearest subway stop, F to Fourth Avenue). Exhibits in the Old Stone House describe its connection to baseball and the Revolutionary War.
Kim Maier, executive director of the Old Stone House, offers a couple of other fun Dodger facts: The team was called the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers because trolleys running along Third Avenue made it tricky to get to the park. And the man who built Ebbets Field started out as a ticket-taker at Washington Park, then worked his way up to control the team. His name was Charlie Ebbets.