Contact: Sunny Mindel/Curt Ritter 212-788-29588
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mark Reese, son of the late Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, today announced the formation of a special committee that will raise funds, select a designer, and choose a location in Brooklyn for a new life-size statue of Brooklyn Dodgers legends Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.
The statue will commemorate the historic moment in 1947 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, where, despite constant heckling and racial-baiting by Cincinnati players and fans, Reese placed his arm around Robinson as an act of friendship and camaraderie. This single act helped break the color barrier in Major League Baseball and laid the groundwork for racial tolerance in the United States.
"Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese remain very much alive in the hearts of New Yorkers and the hearts of baseball fans everywhere," said Mayor Giuliani. "The example they gave on and off the field helped Americans understand at a difficult time that brotherhood knows no racial boundaries. Today, children all across America admire athletes of all races and ethnicities for their individual talents. Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese were two of the pioneers who made this possible.
"This statue commemorating their friendship and achievements will help ensure that their message continues to be passed down generation to generation," the Mayor continued. "Its presence will remind New Yorkers that our diversity - and our friendship - is our greatest strength, as a City and as a nation."
This public/private initiative, which was first suggested by Newsday sportswriter Stan Issacs and later brought to the Mayor's attention by New York Post columnist Jack Newfield, will be solely funded through private donations. A principal source of the funding will come from Ted Forstmann, Senior Partner of Forstmann Little & Co., and a lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Mr. Forstmann is currently producing a movie based on the classic sports novel, The Boys of
Summer, which chronicles the Brooklyn Dodgers' golden years. Persons interested in making a financial contribution should send checks to NYC Public Private Initiatives, (Robinson/Reese Fund), 100 Church Street, 20th Floor, New York, New York 10007. Checks should be made out to NYC PPI, and in the memo portion of the check the individual should write Robinson/Reese Fund. Persons interested in inquiring about this initiative can also call The Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese Memorial Tribute Fund care of Rubenstein Associates at 212-843-9289.
Committee members present at today's event included New York Post columnist Jack Newfield, Newsday sportswriter Stan Issacs, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Ted Forstmann, Senior Partner of Forstmann Little & Co., Don Fehr of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Joe Pignatano, former Brooklyn Dodger and teammate of Robinson and Reese. Other members of the committee include some of the City's most prominent citizens, among them: sports figures - many of whom were teammates of Robinson and Reese - sports and baseball journalists, as well as business and civic leaders.
Mrs. Rachel Robinson said, "I am very pleased that a statue will be built to honor the friendship between my husband and Pee Wee Reese. They were a part of history, and it is very fitting that a statue will be built to mark that historic gesture."
Mrs. Dorothy Reese, wife of the late Pee Wee Reese, said, "My late husband didn't see skin color, he saw ability. What he saw in Jackie Robinson was sheer talent. What he felt for him was camaraderie. I can think of nothing more important, at the dawning of a new millennium, than celebrating our commonality, rather than our differences, and to remember that there is no room in sports, or life, for prejudice."
On April 15, 1947 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Robinson was the first African American player to take the field and break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Robinson played 10 seasons with the Dodgers and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Most Valuable Player in 1949. Robinson had a career batting average of .311 with 197 stolen bases, and played in six World Series and six All-Star games. He died on October 24, 1972 at the age of 53.
Reese spent his entire 16-year career with the Dodgers, appearing in seven World Series. He played 15 years in Brooklyn and followed the team to Los Angeles for one more season before retiring in 1958. He led the National League (NL) in runs scored (132) in 1949 and stolen bases (30) in 1952. He hit over .300 in a season once (.309 in 1954) and led the NL in putouts four times. Reese was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. He passed away this past August 14 at the age of 81.
Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, and Pee Wee Reese's widow, Dorothy, were unable to attend today's press conference, but both have indicated that they will attend the groundbreaking for the statue.