Ed Henry on the story that was the impetus for the title “42 Faith” ~
“It’s a lesson for all of us, and that’s why we call it 42 Faith. It wasn’t just Jackie’s faith, Branch Rickey’s faith, I think a lot of these players on the Dodgers had remarkable faith.”
A Ockershausen: A friend in need is a friend in deed, and this man is a friend. He used to be a fresh faced kid, he made a huge impact on Our Town. He’s not fresh faced anymore.
Ed Henry: Wow.
A Ockershausen: Ed Henry is a transplant from Queens, New York.
Ed Henry: Mm-hmm.
A Ockershausen: Came to Washington as a journalist, to work for Jack Anderson.
Ed Henry: That’s right.
A Ockershausen: How about that! He’s another success story who found his way to WMAL radio. Providing political insight into a morning show. We had a morning show here called Harden and Weaver, it’s not with us anymore. He worked with Chris Core, and Chris Plante. In fact, he worked everywhere from Roll Call to the Washingtonian, to CNN, Fox News, he’s covered the Hill, the White House. He’s covered some incredible national news stories.
And the main news himself, with a fabulous new book about Jackie Robinson. Please welcome Ed Henry to Our Town.
Ed Henry: Thanks for having me! The book’s called 42 Faith and you told me you had a little story about Jackie Robinson. Weren’t you walking through National Airport?
A Ockershausen: No.
Ed Henry: When he-
A Ockershausen: I had invited Howard down to be the …
Howard Cosell and Jackie Robinson
Ed Henry: Howard Cosell.
A Ockershausen: To be a … Cosell, he’s … There’s only one Howard.
Ed Henry: There’s only one Howard to you.
Like Frank …
A Ockershausen: Everyone else didn’t get to meet him.
Whenever ever I say, JB who’s sat right in that chair. You know JB, you know . . .
Ed Henry: I know JB.
A Ockershausen: He’s our guy. Well, Howard and I . . . I had to pick him up at the airport, and when he got in, this is before cellphones. This must have been in the early 70S.
Ed Henry: 1972 72.
A Ockershausen: He got a phone call, somebody at the gate gave him this message, he had to make a phone call. He had to call Rachel Robinson, that Jackie had died.
Ed Henry: Yeah, October 1972. He was only 53 years old.
A Ockershausen: That is incredible, but to be there, to be part of history when he got that message. He had been close to him, he used to ride the train with him. I didn’t know that they lived up at Pound Ridge, or some place.
Ed Henry: Yeah, it’s amazing what, we get into all these different layers of this story but, the old Brooklyn Dodgers of the forties and fifties, they used to take the subway to Ebbets Field. I mean, you think about now, these players who make 150, 250 million Bryce Harper, here in Washington is talking about his next deal being over $400 million, almost half a billion dollars, for a baseball player. Are they worth it? Are they not worth it? It’ll be a bar room argument for a long time, but these players didn’t make a whole lot of money, even if they were world famous.
A Ockershausen: Howard’s point, . . Jackie rode the train.
Ed Henry: Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Because he rode the train. Going home to Pound Ridge or some place and he met Rachel and the family.
Dodgers, Flatbush and Stickball
Ed Henry: One of the characters in my book is Jerry Reinsdorf because he’s the owner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls, he became famous in Chicago but he grew up in Flatbush. And he played stickball with Duke Snider. You know Willie, Mickey and the Duke? Could you imagine playing stickball now with Jason Werth or Ryan Zimmerman, I mean, I know Ryan but you don’t play stickball in the street, a 10 year old kid doesn’t play stickball with Duke Snider. But Duke Snider lived in a little apartment in Flatbush and took the subway to Ebbets Field.
A Ockershausen: And that’s the way it was! The first … I went to Ebbets Field, my brother-in-law was a firefighter in New York, way back, he got to be deputy commissioner or something but, he would take me to a game in Flatbush and then some of the ladies, there were women there and they’d be in aprons, they’d stop doing the dishes to come to watch the Dodgers play.
Ed Henry: We’ve taken a wrong turn here buddy, you can be talking about ladies doing dishes anymore, they-
A Ockershausen: That’s what they did though!
Ed Henry: That was a long time ago.
A Ockershausen: They went to the Dodger game, I mean the Dodgers-
Ladies Day at Ebbets Field
Ed Henry: You know it’s funny, my friend Jack Quinn, he was White House counsel, to President Clinton.
A Ockershausen: I remember Quinn.
Ed Henry: Still, very active here in Washington, great family, Susanna and Jack. Jack says that his mom went to either “women’s day” or “wives day” or something at Ebbets Field. They used to have a day to get women out of the house
A Ockershausen: Ladies Day.
Ed Henry: Ladies Day.
A Ockershausen: Ladies Day, absolutely.
Ed Henry: Yeah, because the guys, back then … we’re at work now, we’re in a much different time. In Our Town.
A Ockershausen: Well, the guy that sat in this chair, earlier before you, talking about Our Town. Dave Carpenter, knows the head of the White House detail. David talked about being … His mother was at a Saint Louis Cardinals baseball game when she went into labor for his birth.
That’s the women in baseball. It’s a small world.
But Ed, you’ve done so much to bring Jackie back, and bring the idea of Jackie back. And even got Larry King involved. Who probably said he played ball with Larry.
Ed Henry: He wrote the Foreward.
A Ockershausen: Yeah. Larry was Mister Wonderful when he was in Washington.
Ed Henry: He pops up everywhere. He used to be at Duke Zeiberts – one of your favorite restaurants. All the time. He had his own table.
A Ockershausen: Janice will tell you that Larry King always wanted to be on WMAL. Is that right Janice?
Janice Ockershausen: Yeah. Overnights.
A Ockershausen: Because she was producing the Morning Show for years. But, this is connecting the dots in Washington, and you’re a big part of the dot. You did so much to come in. Jack Anderson, oh my god what a name.
Ed Henry, Jack Anderson and Clarence Thomas Confirmation Hearings
Ed Henry: I was just a college kid and I came to Washington in the Fall of 1991. The Gulf War, I think, was just about over and the big story was Clarence Thomas.
A Ockershausen: That was the “hundred hour war”, right?
Ed Henry: Basically. Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were going on.
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Ed Henry: I was a kid reporter. I was interning with Jack, because I was going to Siena College in upstate New York, in Loudonville, outside Albany. Came here to American University for what they call “The Washington Semester Program”, instead of going overseas for a semester, you do a semester quote unquote abroad, in Washington instead of overseas.
A Ockershausen: Gotcha.
Ed Henry: It was great fun and you get to pick an internship. I got an internship with Jack Anderson.
A Ockershausen: Wow!
Ed Henry: Pulitzer Prize winning, investigative columnist. He was winding down by then, he was about 70 years old. So he would have kids like me, running around town, chasing stories. And literally, my first week or so here, in Washington, I’m soaking this up, I’m thinking “this is the greatest thing”. And, in the daytime I remember there being this big back and forth with Clarence Thomas, and if you recall, Bush 41 sent Thomas back because Clarence Thomas had been attacked by Anita Hill, and so, in an extraordinary move they said not only he doesn’t want to let this wait a day, he’s coming back to the judiciary committee for like 8/9 o’clock, which was unheard of, to answer these charges of sexual harassment. I was just a kid, grabbed a couple of my fellow students, because I had heard that you can go to congressional hearings. And, basically ran up there and waited on the public line. You know and we get in!
A Ockershausen: What an experience!
Ed Henry: I sat behind Clarence Thomas when he said this is a high-tech lynching. You know, that was like the big
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Ed Henry: I was sitting behind him. Not right behind him, you probably can’t see me … but I was in that room, and I just remember seeing Paul Simon and Joe Biden and then, I thought “I’m hooked” you know
A Ockershausen: That was a time! I remember that so vividly.
Ed Henry: Yeah, and look it was obviously also a time when a lot of people feel the whole partisanship deal just got worse, and worse and worse. That one came after Bork, and a whole series of nasty events. However, for me, as a reporter seeing both sides go at it, The Gladiators. . .
A Ockershausen: You know, I always loved George H. W. And still do. But when he said that Clarence Thomas is not the best black man he’s the best man in America for the job, he went too far and that lost me, you know, he didn’t have to do that but he did it. You recall that?
President George H.W. Bush: Kennebunkport BBQ, Tennis, President Reagan, and Japan
Ed Henry: Yeah, I remember he made the statement and, look, it was a more gentile, I mean Bush 41. I mean his interactions with the press, when you look at President Trump now, and you know, the “failing New York Times” and “fake media” and all of this. I mean, I covered the White House about ten years, you know, after my Jackie Anderson days, with CNN and Fox. And I remember guys on the beat and ladies as well, Ann Compton from ABC News I say ladies because we say ladies…Ann Compton, great reporter. And she basically talked about going to Bush 41’s compound in Kennebunkport. And being invited to these off the record barbecues, and you figure you’re going to go there and there’ll be somebody cooking and, you know, the Bushs were so wealthy, and this whole image that everyone had. No, they go in their back yard and Bush 41 is flipping the burgers literally, for the press and drinking beer out of a can.
I mean, that’s the story I heard from a whole bunch of reporters covering those days. And it’s interesting because his public image was of the, sort of, detached, rich guy who didn’t understand. I’m not saying just because he drank beer out of a can he understood the middle class, he was a rich guy who had this wonderful compound in Kennebunkport.
A Ockershausen: Right.
Ed Henry: However, you know him a lot better than I, I know him only a little bit, Bush 41 was a very direct sincere person, right the letter to you, hand written.
A Ockershausen: Ed, the things that George . . . H W was so important to Our Town, and you know, I played tennis with him, I got invited to play on the White House courts, I wasn’t a great player but George was a very good player and the Secretary of State was his partner too, did you know that? They won doubles in Texas and everything.
Ed Henry: I vaguely remember. Wasn’t it when President Reagan got shot, was Bush 41 traveling, and that’s why Al Hague said I have to, you know, I’m in charge.
A Ockershausen: I’m in charge.
Ed Henry: But there was another time where, I think, President Reagan had surgery and there was some confusion whether they were going to invoke the amendment to-
A Ockershausen: Yeah, when he was under.
Ed Henry: To pass on the powers. But, my recollection is that Bush 41 was playing tennis and got hurt, and got knocked out or something. So, the President and the Vice-President were both out for a brief time.
A Ockershausen: Well, he fell off that platform in Japan, were you on that trip?
Ed Henry: I wasn’t, I was too young by then, but he fell off the platform he fell out of a chair. I mean, when I worked at CNN I had friends who were older than I, and were in the, you know, sort of the control room at CNN watching the tape feed in from Japan, it’s the middle of the night in the United States, and there’s reports that the president has collapsed at this dinner. The video shows him looking like he’s half dead.
A Ockershausen: I know, awful.
Ed Henry: And, I spoke to people at CNN, and remember CNN was basically the only cable news network at that time. This would have been 90/91. And there were people who were, who tell me they were about to go on the air with a rumor that President Bush had died, Because he was out cold.
A Ockershausen: They were scared to death of that, correct.
Ed Henry: And they almost did it. And somebody, somewhere in the line said “Stop! We need to get more confirmation on this” and thank god they held the story because he was very much alive.
A Ockershausen: Well, that taught me a lesson, you’ve got to verify these stories.
Ed Henry: Even if your mom tells you, your mom tells you check it out.
A Ockershausen: But the Ed Henry that began in Queens, New York.
Ed Henry: Astoria, yeah.
A Ockershausen: Astoria. . .I had lunch. . . Janice and I had lunch in Astoria one time. We went to New York to cover the . . . see how these dots all connect. We went up to cover Reagan and the Statue of Liberty.
Janice Ockershausen: Statue of Liberty – Bicentennial
A Ockershausen: We did a remote with Harden and Weaver.
Ed Henry: You know what’s funny is I’ve been listening to Our Town and that’s why I’m really glad to be invited because of the 42 Faith, and I go back and forth, between DC and New York for Fox to do various … Host various programs and stuff. And I listen to a lot of podcasts including yours. And you know, Tommy Jacomo.
A Ockershausen: Oh God.
Ed Henry: And Donald Dell, who’s a friend of mine, we played golf a couple of times, great guy. And, these stories are great but you know, what’s funny is, most of these stories come back to you eating somewhere. Duke Zeiberts, The Palm you know. And you know what, in fact, one of your podcasts, it might have been the Jacomo one, got me to read this book about Edward Bennet Williams. Because I-
A Ockershausen: No that wasn’t mine but that’s a fabulous book.
Edward Bennett Williams and Joe Dimaggio – Biography The Man to See by Evan Thomas
Ed Henry: No no no, in the podcast, Tommy Jacomo is telling stories about Edward Bennett Williams and coming into The Palm and crazy stories and it led me to-
A Ockershausen: Had a few cocktails. Ed.
Ed Henry: Yeah. Well, I’ve been reading this book, The Man to See. Which, Evan Thomas did.
A Ockershausen: Yeah.
Ed Henry: It’s a fascinating biography of Edward Bennett Williams.
A Ockershausen: I bet it is.
Ed Henry: So he’d hang out at The Palm here and have a few but then in New York he’d go to Toots Shor, and he’d hang out with Joe DiMaggio and he’s this world famous attorney.
A Ockershausen: That was his pal. Joe D.
Ed Henry: Unbelievable.
A Ockershausen: Well, you know, growing up in Queens, you went to school, you went to high school.
Ed Henry: No, so my parents wanted, they though the American dream would be out on Long Island and they didn’t want me to go to school in the New York City public school. They felt like that would be, sort of the next generation. So we moved out to Dear Park –
The Melting Pot
A Ockershausen: Now, it’s bilingual, I understand Flushing is like, Korea, unbelievable.
Ed Henry: Queens is an ultimate melting pot. I mean, it ties into Jackie Robinson because, you know, a lot of people criticize Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers saying that, you know, he claimed to be so passionate about breaking the color line and integrating baseball and yet, all those years he was with the Saint Louis Browns and the Saint Louis Cardinals he didn’t do a darn thing. Well, I talked to Carl Erskine, one of the last surviving Brooklyn Dodgers, 90 years old he says, look, in Saint Louis it was not a melting pot. There’s no way in the 30’s and 40’s, that he could have integrated baseball. But Brooklyn was different. Brooklyn was a melting pot. You talk about Queens now, you know, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, these boroughs of New York have been melting pots for a long, long time.
A Ockershausen: Flatbush.
Ed Henry: You know, so it was a wonderful place for Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey to come together. And the book, for me, came together. . . I was at a dinner party here in Washington, 10 years ago, 2007. And, it’s the Belgium Ambassador’s house and we-
A Ockershausen: Wow!
Ed Henry: And we talked about food. Yeah wow! I thought it was going to be a great dinner. So then he serves pigeon. That was strike one!
A Ockershausen: You were the pigeon.
Ed Henry: Yeah, I felt like strike two is, I slice the pigeon and there’s these little bones in there, I said “What the heck is this?” The woman next to me says “Well it’s not called pigeon, it’s called squab, it’s a delicacy in Belgium, they’re called squab” did you know that? Have you ever heard that?
A Ockershausen: A Queens boy.
Ed Henry: Queens boy, I have no story if we don’t have no pigeons. We got a lot of Greek food but not … So, strike three was that a Senator got an award at this dinner and, it was a filibuster you know? You ever go to the, you know, you say yes to one of these dinners you’re like “Why did I say yes to this?”.
Byron “Whizzer” White
A Ockershausen: The only Embassy party I ever went to that was the “Whizzer” White’s wife, who’s got-
Ed Henry: Byron White, “Whizzer” White, you know all the lingo.
A Ockershausen: He was a local guy, you know, I would see the wizard around town.
Ed Henry: Didn’t he go to the university of … He was from Colorado right?
A Ockershausen: All American from Colorado
Ed Henry: Football yeah.
A Ockershausen: But she was standing with one foot in the pond, and she’s had a few cocktails, I never forget that. And he tried to get her out of the pond and she wouldn’t move.
Ed Henry: A lot of the stories involve lunch or cocktails, I feel like-
A Ockershausen: Queens. Wait.
Branch Rickey’s Epiphany in God’s Presence
Ed Henry: No, so let me tell you the rest of the story. So then the Senator goes on and I turn to the woman next to me at the Belgium Ambassadors house and I say “I’m gonna go watch the world series” it was October 2007, you know, “nice to see you”. She says, “you a baseball fan?” I said “Yeah.” She said “My late father-in-law had a major role in baseball history but the story’s never been told” Dun dun dun.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Ed Henry: So I sit back down, like, what are you talking about? Her father-in-law was a minister in Brooklyn and in 1945 there’s a knock at the door, tells the secretary, I got to talk to the minister right away, because a man shows up, goes upstairs to her father-in-law and paces the room for 45 minutes, hemming and hawing and sighing and sitting down and standing, and finally after 45 minutes this man pounds his fists, says “I’ve got it” he starts to kind of, tear up, grab his hat and leave. And so the minister thinks he’s got some big problem, he’s afraid to confess it, she turned to me and “You know who that man was?” I said “It was probably Branch Rickey. She said “Yeah, he had second thoughts, and secretly went to this minister and said I’m not sure I can go through with signing Jackie to the first contract”. But, at the end of this 45 minutes, as he’s grabbing his hat and going out the door, he starts crying and says “I’ve decide to sign Jackie to the first contract, hardest decision of my life.”
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Ed Henry: I needed to be in your presence, he says to the minister, I needed to be in God’s presence.
A Ockershausen: That’s a great way to start . .
Ed Henry: That’s the beginning of the book. So then I explore it.
A Ockershausen: And he’d been playing professional baseball had he been in a Canadian league or something?
Branch Rickey Signs Jackie Robinson – Breaks Color Line
Ed Henry: No. So this was right, this is 45, so then he signs him to a minor league contract and Jackie, your right, goes to Montreal to play for the Montreal Royals. And that was the international league, the Minor Leagues.
A Ockershausen: Right.
Ed Henry: He’s promoted up to the big leagues in April of 47 and that’s when we see him trot out and this is now currently the 70th anniversary. That’s when the color line is broken.
The Faith Connection and Steadfast Convictions
But, it led me to think what if? Well so, Rickey came close to maybe saying “I can’t go through with this”, faith played a bigger role for him in getting there, but then the thought led me to explore well, how much did faith play in Jackie overcoming people shouting the N word at him, people threatening his life. You know, this is a much different time in America, as you know, 1945, 1947. I mean, I’ll tell you a quick story that I found out on the Rickey side, then we can talk about Robinson later. But, Rickey, in the early 1900’s, Branch Rickey, is a kid on a farm in Ohio. And he goes to his mom and he says “I want to be a big league ball player”. And there’s an Our Town connection to this, by the way, that I’m going to get to. And the mom says no way. She’s a Methodist, Jackie’s mother, Jackie Robinson’s mother, a Methodist as well, and interesting little faith connection there, so I called it 42 Faith.
And, the mother of Rickey says “No way, all ball players do is drink alcohol and swear and party and you’re not doing it”. Now, Rickey didn’t take no for an answer, as you know, otherwise he wouldn’t of broken the color barrier in baseball. He goes to bed, he gets up the next morning and says “I’ll make you a deal. What if you let me chase my dream, and I will never play on Sunday?” His mom goes for it, says okay. So, Rickey becomes a big league ball player, he plays for the Highlanders and other teams, but he eventually gets cut for two reasons. One, he doesn’t play on Sundays, so the owners say “We’re paying you a full salary, and you’re taking every Sunday off. The other guys are playing”.
A Ockershausen: But he made a commitment.
Ed Henry: Yeah, he made a commitment to his mom. And when he’s with the Dodgers, he’s now a big executive, he signs Jackie, they’re playing in the World Series almost every year, his grandson, Branch Rickey the third is still alive and told me that, even as an executive with the Dodgers, his parents are now dead, Branch Rickey, still will not step foot in the ball park on Sundays. To honor that commitment. No matter what is happening. Now, quick Our Town. Rickey, before he ever became an executive, he was a big league ball player for a brief time, but he gets cut for two reasons. I said one, because he wouldn’t play on Sunday.
A Ockershausen: They couldn’t afford it.
Ed Henry: Number two, in a game against the Washington Senators – he was a catcher. He had such a weak arm he gave up 13 or 14 consecutive stolen bases. The Washington Post did a story, I found it, saying-
A Ockershausen: Probably, Shirley Povich.
Ed Henry: Shirley Povich probably wrote it. I didn’t check the name on it, I should’ve checked the name on the byline of the story. But yeah, in 14 stolen bases in a row by the Washington Senators, if you’re a catcher and you get 14 stolen bases in a row, in one game, you’re done, and he was done. But, it was a blessing in disguise because then he becomes this great executive and he signs Jackie to the first contract.
A Ockershausen: Fabulous executive in baseball. Well I want to get back to you and Queens before we get too involved with 42, and listen to you.
Ed Henry: I was a kid in Astoria so there’s no alcohol involved.
A Ockershausen: I would hope not, this is Andy Ockershausen, this is Our Town.
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Reminiscing College Basketball Coaches
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town with Ed Henry, this is Andy Ockershausen talking about the early Ed Henry. Now this comes as maybe as a shock to you, but I remember something bout Siena, that you probably remember, the Head Basketball Coach at Siena was Jimmy V. Is that correct?
Ed Henry: I think Jimmy V was at Iona.
A Ockershausen: Oh is it? I thought it was Siena.
Ed Henry: Before NC State.
A Ockershausen: Yeah that’s right but who is the big basketball coach? Somebody left Siena and went into…
Ed Henry: We had Mike Deane and he went on to Marquette. We had Fran McCaffery, who went over to Iowa, he’s still at the University of Iowa.
A Ockershausen: A name I know.
Ed Henry: Yeah, and now we got Jimmy Patsos, who’s kind of an Our Town guy, remember Jimmy Patsos.
A Ockershausen: Loyola.
Ed Henry: He was at Loyola, but before that he was an assistant with Gary Williams at the University of Maryland.
A Ockershausen: The Gary Greek. He’s Gary the Greek, that’s what we call him.
Ed Henry: Right, and didn’t Gary have an illness at some point in that run with Maryland, and Patsos, I think got an opportunity to….great guy, great guy. And Siena loves-
A Ockershausen: He’s done well in Siena?
Ed Henry: He’s done well. He had a couple of early, the first year or two was up and down, but this last year they had a great run and they came this close to making it to the NCAA tournament.
A Ockershausen: You mention him being in upstate New York. Is that-
Ed Henry: Just outside Albany. Not too far so-
A Ockershausen: No, Albany’s not that far away.
Ed Henry: Yeah, maybe from New York City, about half way up the Syracuse. . .
A Ockershausen: Where was Iona, was that around that?
Ed Henry: Iona’s more New Rochelle, as I recall. So it’s much closer to the city than Siena is. But you’re right, Jimmy V, you had it close, you’re only off a couple of letters.
A Ockershausen: Well, I knew that it was something I saw about Siena, and now-
Measle Outbreak Siena College, Loudonville, NY during NCAA Tournament
Ed Henry: Yeah, I’ll tell you something about Siena that I thought you were going to say, which is, I think it was 199 … no see, I went there about 89/90. It was the year before I got there. There was an outbreak of measles on the Siena campus, so Siena students were quarantined, and could not go to a game that was going to decide whether or not, whoever won the game was going to go to the NCAA tournament. It was going to be Siena’s, I think, first ever appearance in the big-
A Ockershausen: Wow!
Ed Henry: Big dance. So, the way it was set up originally was, okay well Siena students can’t go but the other team, they can send as many students as they want. And they petitioned and they petitioned, and they ended up agreeing that it would be unfair that one campus had measles. So they ended up playing to an empty arena. They had the officials, the players, the coaches, the sports writers and no fans. Because they felt it would be an unfair advantage. Siena won the game and got into the tournament.
A Ockershausen: Siena did?
Ed Henry: Siena got into the big dance.
A Ockershausen: Is that a Catholic school? Of course.
Ed Henry: Yeah. It’s connected, it was originally, when I was there Franciscan and then, like a lot of these colleges now are sort of, not directly affiliated
A Ockershausen: Nondenominational, yeah.
Ed Henry: Because they want to bring in more people and they don’t want to limit it.
A Ockershausen: They want the money.
Ed Henry: I didn’t say that. Boy Andy did. Didn’t you? [Laughter]
A Ockershausen: Tuition. I’m glad you straightened me out, I kept thinking it was Jimmy V, but Jimmy V you’re right is Iona.
Ed Henry: What a great time.
A Ockershausen: But I knew there was great basketball in that part of the world. Now, all the things that you’ve done, and leading you to Jackie. But before you got this great idea about Jackie, what is your experiences. What are some of the outstanding things that, I know you were with Obama for a long time.
President Obama’s Message to Rachel Robinson
Ed Henry: Yeah, I covered President Obama at CNN and Fox. And that was an amazing ride because, you know, it’s tied back to Jackie Robinson because as I started work on this project, at some point-
A Ockershausen: This is a great story here you’re telling.
Ed Henry: I went to President Obama and told him that I was going to go interview Rachel Robinson, who you mentioned earlier. Jackie’s widow who is still alive. Jackie died in 1972, as I mentioned aged 53, his wife is still alive now at about 95 years old. So it’s a treasure that she’s still here. And I was going to interview her, a few years ago and I said to President Obama, did you know her very well? And he said, I met her briefly a couple of times, I really want to spend more time with her. In fact, I want you to bring a message for me. And I said “Really?” I mean, because Presidents don’t usually tell, you know, they can pick up the phone, they can write a letter, they can go visit someone, or someone will come to them at the White House.
A Ockershausen: It did trigger something.
Ed Henry: I said, what’s the message? And he said “I want you to tell her that I see a straight line, from what Jackie did in 1947, to me being here at the White House right now.” That stopped me in my tracks because-
A Ockershausen: I bet it did!
Ed Henry: I knew that Jackie had a big influence, but, the idea that, on a couple of levels. Number one, it transcended baseball, it transcended sports, which Jackie did.
A Ockershausen: Correct.
Ed Henry: You had Dr. King saying in the 60s. I mean think about this, the March on Washington, Our Town, right here-
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Ed Henry: 1963, a seminal moment. That’s a couple of decades after Jackie and Branch Rickey. And so, not to take anything away from Dr. King, but Dr. King himself said about Jackie Robinson. He was “a sit inner, before there were sit ins”. They didn’t even have the term, people weren’t even, you know going to Woolworth and saying “you have to serve me.” He was just doing it. He wasn’t talking about it. And, so, and then, I think finally, it also stunned me that President Obama said that to me because I thought also about what a crime it was that Jackie Robinson died in 1972. He didn’t live to see the first African-American baseball manager, Frank Robinson, no relation about 3 years later with the Indians. He didn’t live to see Barack Obama become the first President, African-American President. I mean, the thing about the advances that he didn’t get to see, the idea that Jackie Robinson is not someone now who is a revered person, that we can call on and see and say, yeah, there he is. The way Mohammed Ali was in his later years. You remember when Mohammed Ali held up that flame at the Atlanta Olympics.
A Ockershausen: Oh God, what a moment. What a magic moment.
Ed Henry: There was controversy with him before, and there was triumphs with him, but, the country came together and said, you know what this man had an incredible impact on this nation. Love him, hate him, dislike him, like him and Jackie Robinson never really had a moment like that.
A Ockershausen: No that’s right, he didn’t. He didn’t last long enough to really, the true impact-
Ed Henry: To drink it in.
Larry Doby and the Cleveland Indians
A Ockershausen: One of the quiz questions, who was the second black player in baseball. That’s always a trick. I think it was Larry Doby.
Ed Henry: Larry Doby yeah. You know that’s another Branch Rickey story, which is that, Branch Rickey, because no one else wanted to touch these players from the Negro Leagues at first, you know, so he signed Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe and had them, I think in Nashua, New Hampshire. But he didn’t bring them up right away, he had them ready to go. And he was going to bring up a whole bunch of African-American players. All of a sudden he gets a call saying “You can have Larry Doby”. And if you think back to those Brooklyn Dodgers teams, Carl Erskine and others tell me-
A Ockershausen: Ah
Ed Henry: They were always one outfielder away. Right, but they were an outfielder away, you know, you had Carl Furillo in right field, he had this gun of an arm. In fact, in Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn has one of the great lines, he says-
A Ockershausen: It was a great book by Roger, wasn’t it?
Ed Henry: A great book and he says that Furillo had such a shotgun arm that he could throw a lamb chop past a wolf. I think that’s what he said. That kind of writing, that’s kind of images that you, that stick with you. But they were always like a corner outfielder, another bat away from beating the Yankees, they finally beat them in ’55, but there were so many heartaches for the Dodgers. So, Erskine tells me, if we had signed Larry Doby, he would have been that missing link.
A Ockershausen: Outfield.
Ed Henry: And he said “I would have had ten rings instead of Yogi, with the Yankees”. Yogi Berra. That’s the way Erskine sees it, instead he only got one ring with the Brooklyn Dodgers in ’55. Here’s the point. Branch Rickey had a chance to sign Larry Doby, and he said “you know what, this is a bad idea” because then the Dodgers are going to become known a the Black team, and the National League is going to be known as the Black League. And then, nobody is going to sign black players in the American League, it’ll be better if multiple teams in both leagues-
A Ockershausen: Is that correct?
Ed Henry: So he called Bill Veeck, who is running Cleveland and he later was with – owned – the Chicago White Sox, a character in the game, Bill Veeck.
A Ockershausen: Veeck is in wreck.
Ed Henry: Veeck is in wreck. And he said “It’s better, you should take him.” And that was another gesture that is in history, I mention it in the book, it’s not talked about a lot. But if you think-
A Ockershausen: Foresight.
Ed Henry: Do you think there’s a baseball owner today, if given a chance to sign like, a second star from Japan or somewhere? Would say, you know, the Yankees would say, you know, I think that maybe the Mets should have him because if both teams in New York had a Japanese star it would be. . . No! The Yankees would sign as many of these stars as they could. I mean, I’m a Yankees fan, the Red Sox would sign as many as they could.
A Ockershausen: Always.
Ed Henry: Ted Lerner in the Nationals, they don’t want to share with any, and it’s a business now. And back then, Branch Rickey said this is better for the game, this is better for the Country, this is better for the advancement of civil rights if we spread these African-American players around.
Another interesting, I talk a lot about October 3rd 1951, the “shot heard round the world”.
A Ockershausen: Bobby Thompson.
Shot Heard Round the World: Vin Scully, Red Barber and Ralph Branca
Ed Henry: Bobby Thompson hits the homer off Ralph Branca, you know who was on deck? Who didn’t get to bat? For the Giants? Willie Mays.
A Ockershausen: Oooh. I would not know that.
Ed Henry: You might want to try that at one of the neighborhood bars. Yeah, “Say Hey Kid”, he was on deck.
A Ockershausen: I was sitting in the dentist’s chair at an air force base in Delaware, getting my teeth worked on, the guy had the radio on and he’s listening and I can’t hear it. And I’ll never forget, 1951.
Ed Henry: That was the game? You heard it?
A Ockershausen: Well I couldn’t hear it hear it good because he’s working on my teeth. But he said “Bobby Thompson just hit a home run”.
Ed Henry: This is why I love the podcast because we go from a “shot heard around the world” to I’m sitting in a dentist chair at an air force base in Delaware.
A Ockershausen: Yeah.
Ed Henry: Who starts a story like that!
A Ockershausen: Getting free work on my teeth.
Ed Henry: But 1951.
A Ockershausen: It’s connecting the dots.
Ed Henry: I talked to Vin Scully, one of the great broadcasters.
A Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Ed Henry: He talks about Red Barber, the other, the broadcaster before him with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Red Barber told him.
A Ockershausen: The “old red head”.
Ed Henry: The “old red head”. He said, “do not, do not become friends with these players.” Because what happens is you become buddy, buddy then they make an error then you let them off the hook. And the listeners are going to know that you’re too close to these guys. So Vin Scully tells me he listened to Red Barber except for one exception. He became friends with Ralph Branca, and Ralph and Ann Branca went on a couple, double dates with Vin Scully and his girl at the time.
So, fast forward, October 3rd 1951, you’re in a dentist chair in Delaware, Vin Scully’s in the broadcast booth as a backup to Barber, he wasn’t calling the game, Branca throws the pitch, Thompson hit’s the home run, and instinctively Scully looks down to the wives and girlfriends, Ann Branca was a fiance at the time, and sees Ann Branca reach into her purse, he says, pull out a white handkerchief and just start balling. And he said, in that moment, it said everything about how bad this was for Ralph Branca, but also, that the “old red head” was right. You can’t become friends with these guys.
A Ockershausen: Not with the players.
Ed Henry: Fast forward, the old Polo Grounds. If you wanted to go to the club house you had to walk out on the field, you had to go to the-
A Ockershausen: Through the dirt.
Ed Henry: And you had to, get to the clubhouse you had to walk up a couple of steps, open the wooden door, and there’s a couple more steps. So, he goes out there to just … I want to get away from Mrs. Branca, I want to … And he goes out to the clubhouse, he opens the door, steps up, steps down and Number 13 for Ralph Branca is facedown in the clubhouse crying. He says – Vin Scully, he says he had to step over his left arm in order to get in through the clubhouse. He didn’t know what to say to his friend after the game. Remember, Branca had dinner set up, with his fiance and a Catholic priest from Fordham. Pat Rowley I think was his name. And, what an interesting moment of fate, you’re supposed to have dinner with a Catholic priest after the worst day of your life. He goes up to the priest, Branca, in the parking lot and says “Father, I’ve done everything right, I’ve given everything to baseball, this is the worst day of my life. This is awful, this is the worst day of my life”. And the priest says, “Ralph, God thinks you’re big enough to carry this cross.”
Branca’s Faith Carries Him Through
And he lived the rest of his life, you know, carrying that cross that he gave up that home run when you were in the dentist chair, that could have wrecked his life but . . . It’s a lesson for all of us, and that’s why we call it 42 Faith. It wasn’t just Jackie’s faith, Branch Rickey’s faith, I think a lot of these players on the Dodgers had remarkable faith. In Branca’s case he was a Catholic, at least he was raised a Catholic.
A Ockershausen: Yeah, right.
Ed Henry: And another twist of fate, after another one of these Dodgers, Giants books was written. The author who wrote it, Josh Prager, from the Wall Street Journal, he exposed the fact that the Giants had stolen some of the signs. And so maybe Branca, they cheated and that’s how Thompson maybe knew the fast ball was coming. Long story short, he writes the book, talks about Branca’s background and gets contacted by someone who says “Wait a second, you said his mother was born here, and they knew this person and that”, they start digging around and find out that Branca’s mother was actually Jewish, he was raised Catholic, lived his whole life saying, from a Catholic priest, God wanted you to carry this cross, as a Catholic, he was actually Jewish. Ralph Branca.
A Ockershausen: Now that is a fabulous story.
Ed Henry: I’m telling you we’ve got a lot of great stories.
A Ockershausen: You’re a fountain of information. You’ve got to write more stories, I mean. But the thing with Scully, that was like
Ed Henry: Ah Vin Scully, Carl Erskine, I met him at an IHop in Anderson, Indiana, 3 hours.
A Ockershausen: Well remember, Red Barber was Red Barbar.
Ed Henry: Red Barba.
A Ockershausen: Red Barba. Red Barba also did the Giants after a while, the Yankees.
Red Barber’s Awakening
Ed Henry: He did the Yankees because he got into a fight with Gillette or somebody about not calling the World Series. And he used to talk about, you know, there’s a fight on the field, there’s a rhubarb and-
A Ockershausen: Oh there’s everything. He was from Alabama, I remember Red Barba.
Ed Henry: Yeah, Florida and Mississippi. I think he grew up in Florida but he’s from Mississippi.
A Ockershausen: The South.
Ed Henry: The deep South. And here’s a real quick, funny story is that, Rickey, is about to sign Jackie after he meets with this minister and everything. He goes to Red Barber, Rickey thought through every part of this, he wanted it to work. And he knew that Red Barber had such a connection with the listeners in Brooklyn and all around New York.
A Ockershausen: And the South too!
Ed Henry: And the South, because they listened to the Dodgers games. Millions of people listened to those broadcasts and TV was just coming on the scene. So he was very powerful, Red Barber.
And if Red Barber from the deep South, did not embrace Jackie Robinson, the fans were going to know it, and then they would have an excuse to say “I’m not routing for the black guy”. So, Rickey pulls him into a restaurant in Brooklyn, sits him, I think it was on Fulton Street, in the back of the restaurant, and says “I gotta tell you something. I don’t know who it is yet, but I’m bringing the first African-American player, Rickey said to Barber. He’s coming, okay? It’s going to happen. I’m going to give you a chance right now to walk away, because if you can’t call games with a, I mean, which now sounds absolutely insane. The idea that a white broadcaster couldn’t broadcast a game with a black player.
A Ockershausen: That was ’45 right?
Ed Henry: He said, “If you’re not gonna embrace this, I want you to quit now, we’re just gonna say you got a better offer somewhere, no one will know it has anything to do with the first black player, and interestingly, Barber’s initial reaction was, “I don’t think I can do it”.
So he said, let me go home and think about it, he goes home, says to his wife “Honey, I don’t think I can do this, I think I’m going to quit the Dodgers. And this, Red Barber was the Dodgers. He wife said, one of the smartest things that a wife could say in this situation “Let’s have a Martini, Red. Let’s think it over”. So they had a couple of Martinis, he went to bed and he got up the next morning and said “I’m going to keep my job, I’m gonna call the games with Jackie”. He said it was mere chance, and I talk about this in the book, mere chance that I was born white, he was born black. Mere chance, it was chance. And, I think, Barber’s faith kind of kicked in as well, and realized, wait a second here, how can I not call a game, just because a black player’s on the field?
And if you remember, one of the things Barber said when Jackie came in ‘47 was “I hope he bats a thousand”. Okay, that’s impossible, that would mean never making an out. But the sentiment was there, that he wanted him to succeed.
On Dodgers Move to Los Angeles
A Ockershausen: And Barber was, you know, such a big important voice because like you say, those games were carried, in a lot of other markets. There’s a strange story when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. They lost the transcontinental cup. So, we had a guy in Washington, that would, that was doing a re-creation on the tape.
Ed Henry: Isn’t that what Ronald Reagan did at some point as well?
A Ockershausen: Yeah, he did it in Iowa,
Ed Henry: Or somewhere where he would … they would tell him…
A Ockershausen: We got a guy that did it here.
Ed Henry: So-
A Ockershausen: But the Dodgers were big all over the East Coast, you know.
Ed Henry: They were.
A Ockershausen: One of the reasons was because they had Black players, it made a big difference.
Ed Henry: And, here’s another quick thing. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, there was a joke that went around about Walter O’Malley, the owner of the team. A man in Brooklyn goes into a bar with a gun, he sees Walter O’Malley, Hitler, and Stalin. He’s only got two bullets. What does he do?
Shoots O’Malley twice.
A Ockershausen: Great story! Ed Henry, you’re a fountain of everything. How did you get into this broadcast business?
Ed Henry: I’m going to try it out, this is fun.
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town, and these are great stories Ed, and you got a lot more and we’ll be right back.
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Announcer: Your listening to Our Town, with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
A Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen talking to Ed Henry. Ed has been a big star for Fox News, for how many, ten years, Ed?
Ed Henry: Well, I’ve been at Fox since 2011, I was at CNN before that so, you know, a few years now, six years.
A Ockershausen: That’s a lifetime in the broadcast business.
Ed Henry: Love covering the White House. Now I’m Chief National Correspondent. I do a lot of anchoring and hosting here and there on the morning show, Fox and Friends. I fill in for Tucker Carlson here and there.
A Ockershausen: You traveled a lot with Obama?
Ed Henry: Oh yeah. And before him, President Bush. Now, one of the fun things there is President Bush one time, I was new on the beat.
A Ockershausen: That’s George.
Ed Henry Covers President George W. Bush – Makes a Lasting Impression
Ed Henry: George W. Bush, because we talked about, Bush 41, George H W Bush earlier. But, George W Bush, about my first week on the job he has a news conference and I was new and I didn’t think he knew who the heck I was. And one of my colleagues said “Don’t shout at him whatever you do”, you know. He’ll call on you, he’s got a list of names. And so we’re in the Rose Garden, and at that time, Rumsfeld was running the Iraq war and things weren’t going well and he had all these Generals and Admirals had written a letter saying, you know, fire him or whatever. And Bush had put out a statement, they had gone weeks saying we don’t comment on personnel, and dah de dah to dodge it. And then, over Easter weekend, the President put out an extraordinary statement from Camp David, saying I stand fully behind my Defense Secretary, dah de dah de dah. So I wanted to know, you know, why all of a sudden the change in posture?
A Ockershausen: What took you so long?
Ed Henry: Yeah, why are you defending your guy now? And so, all my colleagues get questions but nobody asks about that, and we’re getting to the end of it and this was my first news conference with CNN I think, I’m going to get fired if he doesn’t call me, they’re going to think, you know, he doesn’t even know who I am.
A Ockershausen: Did you raise your hand?
Ed Henry: I was raising my hand, he’s not calling on me, and he’s about to leave so I had been told by my colleague “don’t shout at him, he like when you shout at him” but I finally just said “Mr. President!” I just started shouting because I had to get his attention. And he starts leaving and I start saying you said, you weren’t going to comment on Rumsfeld and as soon as his staff, Dan Barton and these guys heard Rumsfeld they’re like, this is over, no more questions. You know, because they did not want him weighing in on Rumsfeld, it was such a lightning rod. And he’s turning tail and leaving the Rose Garden and he hears Rumsfeld, President Bush thinks the opposite, I want to comment on that because he wants to show that he’s got spine and standing behind…he’s solid.
So, all of a sudden I keep shouting “You said you weren’t comment, now you comment, now you’re behind all these Admirals who are saying fire him”, and this is just a jumbled mess because I was probably nervous out of my mind. And, what’s funny is he starts squinting at me, because there are all these heavy lights in the Rose Garden pointing to him. So he’s squinting at me like that, you know the “guy out west”, who’s this? Who’s this guy? Like, you know, he’s got a six shooter out, you know. I mean, very much the cowboy Bush face was looking at me, staring me down. And I’m scared out of my mind, and but you said this, you said that. So he finally says, I’ve heard the voices, I’ve heard the critics but I’m the decider. And he’s staying, and that became, kind of a big moment in my . . .
Now, his critics said, you know, this is just so Bush will not listen to any outside criticism. I’m the decider, he’s so arrogant. But his supporters had a much different view, as you know. He has a spine. I’m the decider, he’s standing behind his guy, he’s got guts.
A Ockershausen: He stood up.
Ed Henry: Yeah, he stood up and … but from that moment on, President Bush knew who I was.
A Ockershausen: I bet he did! I bet he did! And Roger Ailes knew who you were too right?
Ed Henry: Yeah I was at CNN but Roger Ailes and others at Fox-
A Ockershausen: That’s why they hired you.
Ed Henry: They hired me.
Ted Koppel on Sam Donaldson
A Ockershausen: Because you were feisty. You’re like a Sam, a young Sam Donaldson.
Ed Henry: Yeah Sam is a great guy.
A Ockershausen: Sam used to drive him crazy didn’t he?
Ed Henry: He’d mostly get his questions answered, President Reagan would walk away a lot and not answer him but …
A Ockershausen: Oh I know but Sam was unstoppable.
Ed Henry: Remember what Ted Koppel said about Sam Donaldson?
A Ockershausen: No, no but …
Ed Henry: If they had not invented TV, Sam would have gone door to door.
A Ockershausen: Hahaha. That is so great. I don’t know where Sam is, he moved out . . .
Ed Henry: You know I was talking to someone the other day said he’s doing, an ABC colleague said I think he’s mostly in New Mexico at the ranch and doing well. He comes back here occasionally for a speech or an event.
A Ockershausen: His wife worked for Channel 5 for a while. She was a reporter.
Ed Henry: Yeah, yeah.
A Ockershausen: You know, I go back with these names, like Sam, was an anchor at Channel 9, and we auditioned him to move to Channel 7 and everybody gave him the boot saying, he can’t be an anchor.
Ed Henry: This guy will never make it.
A Ockershausen: He yells too much. He’s not an anchor. He wasn’t, he was a reporter.
On Broadcast: Back in the Day
Ed Henry: What about all the people who went through WTOP?
A Ockershausen: Oh my.
Ed Henry: Back in the day, in addition to WMAL, but there were a lot of folks.
A Ockershausen: Great broadcast.
Ed Henry: . . . and guys like that go through?
A Ockershausen: That was CBS guys, absolutely.
Ed Henry: Yeah, so they went up.
A Ockershausen: Richard C. Hottelet, I remember the name. Being at Channel 7, we had the News Bureau as part of the operation, before they moved downtown. ABC got money at one time. They came up with shows like 77 Sunset Strip, all that Hollywood shows. Cheap and they made a fortune and they could build a news … They built a news building, before that the Roone Arledge Building was across the street, but the thing was, there were four TV stations, and six radio stations. That was it. Now there’s 6,000 television stations, and radio’s everywhere.
Ed Henry: Yep.
A Ockershausen: Podcast is radio.
Ed Henry: It’s funny how long people have been saying that radio is going to die, terrestrial radio and it’s still going strong. And I think as long as people are driving in their cars.
A Ockershausen: Always. No, radio is doing very well across the Country.
Ed Henry: And in some ways, local weather, local news, local sports is still something people want more than ever, despite the Iphone and all the news they’re getting there.
A Ockershausen: Well, you’re too young to have lived through all those fights, the inner fighting-
Ed Henry: Wait, you started out saying that I was old now, and I’m not a fresh face. All right, so I’m still a little young. All right.
A Ockershausen: George Bush knows who you are. But Ed, you’re a big part of Our Town now, and I’m so glad … Again, Fox has been very important in the broadcast business and news business.
Ed Henry: Sure.
A Ockershausen: You know, it used to be Metro Media?
Ed Henry: Yeah, I remember hearing all about that.
A Ockershausen: My friend Maury Povich used to work there and Povich does a show now. I love, when I see him I say, “Are you still on television? Because I never see him. I’ve never seen the show. I’m proud of Maury Povich. But I’m more proud of Ed Henry, and what you’ve done. You’re book, I’m sure it’s a huge seller.
Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson – Faith in God Common Thread
Ed Henry: It debuted as number four on the Washington Post Bestseller list, which I’m very grateful for. Has been selling very well. But I think, more than anything, this is my first book and the people who have read it, on social media and elsewhere, are telling me that they love it. And I don’t think they’re saying that to puff me up. People are saying, “I have gotten a second copy now, ’cause I want to buy it for Father’s Day. I want my dad to read about this, ’cause he’s a baseball fan.” Or, “My dad is serious about faith.” ‘Cause what I do is I try to weave together, baseball’s the backdrop, but try to weave together how I think, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, you couldn’t find two more different men. White, black, different generations, different parts of the country. What wove them together was a love for this game of baseball, and a deep sense of faith, and faith in God. And we don’t hear a lot about that.
A Ockershausen: You’re so right.
Ed Henry: And I think these two men were propelled together in history because they both had a deep faith in God. I mentioned Rickey and his mom. Very short story. Jackie, on his side, he’s raised by a single mom in Pasadena, California. And he goes the wrong way. He joins a gang. A lot of people don’t realize that. He had a criminal record. But it was a Christian minister named the Reverend Karl Downs, who pulled Jackie aside, along with his mother, and said, “You’re gonna waste all this athletic talent.” So he makes it to UCLA.
A Ockershausen: Exactly.
Ed Henry: He listens. And he becomes a four letter man. Baseball, basketball, football, track and field. Some people say baseball was his fourth sport. That if he had played football, he’d be better than Jim Brown.
A Ockershausen: That’s right. He was a great, great running back.
Ed Henry: If you look at the video of him slashing and all that. But he would get beaten and battered and bruised on the gridiron on Saturday at UCLA. He’d get up on Sunday morning and he would teach Sunday school, with the Reverend Karl Downs, the man who had saved him. That kind of commitment-
A Ockershausen: In Pasadena?
Ed Henry: In Pasadena. So he’d get in the car from UCLA campus or whatever, and go to Pasadena on Sunday morning. How many college athletes today are doing that? Not to disparage them, but Jackie, you talked before about the commitment and the devotion that Branch Rickey had to his mom. I think Jackie had that same kind of devotion. And fast forward to when he’s with the Dodgers. Rachel Robinson recalls, in that rookie season of ’47, Jackie would leave Ebbets Field, go to their tiny apartment in Manhattan, 34th and Sixth, Herold Square, right behind Macy’s there. And every night before bed, Jackie would get on his hands and knees and pray to God. I’m not saying that made him better than anybody. I’m saying even . . .
A Ockershausen: That was his devotion.
Ed Henry: His devotion, even when he became famous, even though he was a civil rights icon, eventually, Jackie knew there was still a higher being, and that he wasn’t perfect. He was imperfect.
A Ockershausen: And Ed, as you pointed out, when he was a young man in baseball, he rode public transportation.
Duke Snider – Saves the Day in Flatbush
Ed Henry: Yeah, he was on the subway. I tell you, Jerry Reinsdorf is in the book. He was at Jackie Robinson’s first game, so he becomes a big character in my book. Real quick, Reinsdorf talking about how, they’re playing stickball all the time with Duke Snider, and one day Duke’s playing for the Dodgers, so he’s not there. The kids are playing, and all these moms would line up the baby carriages in Flatbush, to watch, because they wanted Duke Snider to come up, ’cause he was young and handsome. And they were waiting for Duke to show up.
So somebody hits a homer, but it lands in a baby carriage. Thankfully, the baby didn’t get hurt. Nothing bad happened. It was a little Spalding ball. It lands in the baby carriage. The kids go running over to get the ball, and Reinsdorf tells me that one of the mom shuts the baby carriage and says, “I’m not giving the ball back.” “We want to play.” “Not giving the ball back until Duke Snider comes to grab the ball.” So she wanted to meet Duke Snider, because she thought he was handsome. And so they had to wait another 40 minutes or an hour.
A Ockershausen: For the game.
Ed Henry: The Dodgers game ends, he showers at Ebbets Field, gets on the subway, a few stops over to Flatbush and all of a sudden, Duke Snider emerges, they get the Spalding and the kids can play and America was saved. Everything was right in America again. But this idea that you’re playing stickball with one of the guys, Willie, Mickey . . .
A Ockershausen: And riding public transportation. Like you say now, they-
Ed Henry: They’re not in a black sedan like now.
A Ockershausen: It’s just incredible what’s happened. There’s so much money in baseball now, Ed, and everything-
Ed Henry: Every other sport too.
A Ockershausen: Maybe it was fortunate Jackie came along in the time that it was. There was no public outcry. It was in Dodgers stadium and he made it, and he did so much for baseball.
Ed Henry: Yeah, and you know, Branch Rickey was also called El Cheapo, because he used to try to squeeze all the money out of the contracts. And they weren’t even making a lot of money then. Can you imagine if Rickey were alive today, to see these contracts?
A Ockershausen: But that was the General Manager’s job – to squeeze the players, right?
Ed Henry: And then you know, he got pushed out, Rickey, from the Dodgers, in part because he was so close to Jackie, they wanted to kind of push Rickey out. O’Malley and others. So Ricky gets pushed out, and he goes to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and you know who he finds there? Roberto Clemente. Little known fact. So Rickey was a guy who, you go back, to Stan Musial and all the Cardinals World Series he won, and then the Dodgers. Players like Jackie and Duke and Pee Wee. And then fast forward to the Pirates, he ends his career with the Pirates and he finds Roberto Clemente. Not a bad record I guess. He was a pretty good executive.
A Ockershausen: Pretty good, yeah.
Ed Henry: It’s almost as good as your talent spotting around Washington, because you’re modest about it, but you’ve been a legend in this town.
A Ockershausen: Well, you know what, it is my town and I love it. It’s Our Town now, and being part of WMAL gave me insight into a lot of things. I met the Presidents, I met Ambassadors and so forth, just being at WMAL and being around town. We made an impact.
Ed Henry: Do I have it right that Willard Scott was here or am I wrong? Didn’t Willard Scott do a thing here at WMAL?
A Ockershausen: Willard worked with Harden and Weaver in the morning.
Ed Henry: Yeah, that’s what I thought. Before he was famous on the Today Show.
A Ockershausen: Oh, absolutely.
Ed Henry: Yeah, absolutely.
A Ockershausen: Willard is one of us. We love Willard. We had lunch with him in Florida a couple of years ago. Janice and I still tight with him. She talks to Willard. But there’ll be no more Willard Scotts, but there’ll be a lot of Ed Henrys.
Ed Henry: Well, I like to hear that. What did you have with Willard at lunch, speaking of lunch. Was it peanut butter and Smuckers? Isn’t that his sponsor?
A Ockershausen: I got it. He brought me some Smuckers though, I’m sure. A jar of Smuckers. Ed Henry, you’re a delight.
Ed Henry: It’s been a pleasure.
A Ockershausen: Great work, success for you.
Ed Henry: All right. Check it out 42 Faith.
A Ockershausen: . . . with Fox.
Ed Henry: All right, I like to hear that.
A Ockershausen: You are. I mean, we do everything we can. If I had any power, I had it with Metro Media, ’causes a good friend of John Kluge. But I don’t know anybody at Fox.
Ed Henry: Try to make some calls. Make some calls.
A Ockershausen: You are Fox. Ed Henry. This has been Our Town. You’re delightful. Ed Henry, thank you.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, season two. Presented by Geico, our hometown favorite. With your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line, with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at OuRTownDC.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL radio in Washington, D.C., for hosting our podcast. And thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.