Brooklyn is a proud baseball town, and there are echoes of that everywhere. Who doesn't know someone who knows someone who knew someone that lived on the same block as Gil Hodges, or played stickball with Pee Wee Reese, or got Duke Snyder's autograph? Brooklyn had pride in the Dodgers, and embraced them all as heroes. One Brooklyn Dodger in particular was a real American hero: Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Across the country, countless streets, monuments, buildings, and other things are named in remembrance of the Hall of Fame second baseman, in remembrance of who the man was, and what he represented.
Perhaps that is what makes this all the more disgusting, but the statue standing in front of MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, was recently vandalized. Cast in bronze, the statue depicts Dodgers captain Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Robinson. The Brooklyn Dodgers' first road trip in 1947 was in Cincinnati, Ohio. Outside of the mostly friendly confines of Ebbetts Field, Robinson endured heckling and abuse from the fans in attendance. In one of the more enduring images of sportsmanship, Reese approached Robinson, and after engaging him in conversation, put his arm around his teammate in a friendly embrace. The casual gesture sent waves across not only the stadium, but across baseball: Robinson is one of us. If you have a problem with that, too bad.
Early Wednesday morning, as MCU Park employees were preparing for the Brooklyn -Connecticut game, they discovered the statue vandalized, with racial slurs and Nazi swastikas scribbled all over it in graffiti. "Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese embody the humanity and inclusiveness that make our borough, city, and country great", said a statement released by the team. "It is both heartbreaking and deeply disturbing that this statue, which is a symbol of equality and tolerance, has been defaced in such an offensive and hateful way."
After reporting the incident to the NYPD, the monument was power washed and sand blasted by the New York City Parks Department, which maintains the statue. Though the majority of the physical graffiti was removed before the early Cyclones-Tigers game was played, the fact that someone would do such a thing cut many deep. According to Billy Harner, the Brooklyn Cyclones' media relations director, "For something like that, that stood for something so good, to be defaced in such a terrible and horrible way was upsetting. It's terrible something like this would happen."
According to Detective John Nevandro of the 60th precinct, the vandalism is being treated as a hate crime, and will be investigated accordingly.