This February, Sports Illustrated is celebrating Black History Month by spotlighting a different iconic athlete or group of athletes every day. Today, SI looks back on the legacy of Wendell Smith.
The writer Wendell Smith helped integrate baseball, though he often had to sit in the stands instead of the press box, where he wasn’t always welcome as an African American.
As sports editor for the Pittsburgh Courier, Smith wrote column after column admonishing professional sports leagues for discriminating against people of color.
“Major League Baseball is perpetuating the very things thousand of Americans are overseas fighting to end, namely, racial discrimination and segregation,” he wrote in 1942.
And in it was in that same role where he served as the initial liaison between Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“No player in history has tried harder to become a big leaguer,” Smith wrote in a column in 1947. “If Jackie Robinson fails to make the grade, it will be many years before a Negro makes the grade. This is IT!”
Smith pushed hard to get Jackie into MLB. Smith wrote stories promoting a variety of African-American superstars in the Negro Leagues. He…