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[Detail] Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese

Baseball Players as Symbols | Biography | Lyrics | Persuasive Writing | Screenwriting

Persuasive Writing

Branch Rickey’s personal beliefs about race and baseball provided the opportunity for Jackie Robinson to enter the major leagues. Rickey’s 1956 speech for the "One Hundred Percent Wrong Club" banquet allows one to examine some of Rickey's arguments on race in America, in both his description of the "Robinson experiment" and in Rickey's presentation of the speech itself. Near the end of his speech, Rickey describes the change in attitude of Jackie Robinson’s minor league manager:

He took me and shook me and his face that far from me and he said, "Do you really think that a 'nigger' is a human being, Mr. Rickey?" . . . And six months later he came into my office. . . . And he said to me, "I want to take back what I said to you last spring." . . . And then he told me that he was not only a great ball player good enough for Brooklyn, but he said that he was a fine gentleman. Proximity . . . will solve this thing if you can have enough of it. But that is a limited thing, you see.

  • What is the purpose of this anecdote? Why would someone use an anecdote in a speech?
  • How does the anecdote contribute to Rickey's argument? How does it contribute to the tone of the speech? How does the tone of the speech in turn contribute to the argument?
  • Does Rickey simplify race relations in America through this anecdote arguing for proximity?
  • Are there any imaginable scenarios in which the manager might not have changed his attitudes with equal or greater exposure to an African-American player?
  • Describe a time when you’ve changed your opinion of a person (whether for good or ill) after you’ve spent some time with him or her. How did it feel? Is this turnaround an argument for or against what Rickey would call, "proximity"?