N.Y.’s Jackie Robinson Museum, which has a high-minded mission, marks groundbreaking

Since 2008, when an empty gallery in lower Manhattan lined its windows with striking sky-blue posters advertising the Jackie Robinson Museum, pedestrians have been trying to get in and callers have been pestering the switchboard for information about when the museum would open.

After a decade-long struggle to raise the funds, that day draws nearer. The museum dedicated to the late baseball giant who broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball celebrated its groundbreaking Thursday with, fingers crossed, an opening anticipated in 2019.

“We know from the throngs of people wanting to visit, from the phone calls and all the pedestrians, that the demand is there,’’ said Della Britton Baeza, president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Of all the hundreds of museums in New York City, she says, “This one will be the only museum focused on civil rights.”

Robinson, who died of a heart attack in 1972, is best known for being the first African American to play in the major leagues in the modern era. Moses Fleetwood Walker played for one year 63 years earlier.

Robinson made his debut April 15, 1947, playing first base for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in “what was literally the greatest moment in the history of baseball,’’ as Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said at Thursday’s ceremony.

“Jackie took our game beyond sport and made it part of a movement that began the process of change in America,” said Manfred.

For breaking the modern color barrier, Robinson endured racist taunts and physical abuse. Angry fans and rival players sometimes spat at him and threw bottles, watermelons and, in one case, a black cat. Nonetheless, he persevered and was named rookie of the year in 1947 and the National League’s most valuable player two years later.

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