Jackie Robinson Sculpture in Jersey City

from the Artsology series The Arts Adventurer

I was walking around the Journal Square and Five Corners area of Jersey City when I happened upon this sculpture of Jackie Robinson. My first thought was, "why is there a sculpture of Jackie Robinson in Jersey City?" I immediately thought of the Roberto Clemente sculpture in Newark, which is only there because of Clemente's "international appeal" and not due to any true connection to Newark. Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia in 1919, and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947–1956, so I was curious about the connection to Jersey City - if indeed there was one.

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Jackie Robinson sculpture by Susan Wagner in Jersey City

My research revealed a career-related milestone for the reason of placing a Jackie Robinson sculpture in Jersey City. Let's back up a minute with a little history: In 1945, Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie Robinson to a contract, with the goal of making him the first black player in Major League Baseball history. But first he was assigned to their minor league team, the Montreal Royals. Here's where the connection with Jersey City comes in: Robinson's first game was here, against the Jersey City Giants on April 18, 1946. In that game, Robinson led Montreal's 14-1 rout with four RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases and four hits, including a three-run homer. The game was played at the now-defunct Roosevelt Stadium, which was less than five miles from where the statue now stands, and the game was a sellout, with a crowd that witnessed history in the making.

detail view of Jackie Robinson sculpture by Susan Wagner in Jersey City

Sculptor Susan Wagner's Jackie Robinson sculpture in Jersey City

The sculpture stands 14 feet tall, and is made of 1,500 lbs. of bronze reinforced with 1,000 lbs. of stainless steel armature and mounting plates. It is the work of sculptor Susan Wagner, who has also created sculptures of other baseball players, such as three members of the Pittsburgh Pirates: Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, and Roberto Clemente, all on view at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. She also created the bronze plaques for Joe Morgan and Ernie Lombardi, on view at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

* Note: I have since learned that the Clemente sculpture featured on this site is indeed also by Susan Wagner, but is an 8 foot tall version of the original 12 foot sculpture she created for PNC Park.

But back to the Jackie Robinson sculpture: the plaque at the base of the sculpture features a quote from Jackie Robinson himself: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." You can see the plaque at right, along with information regarding its dedication on was dedicated on February 25, 1998, with Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow and the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

If you want to see this sculpture for yourself, it is positioned on JFK Boulevard in front of the Journal Square Transportation Center.

commemorative plaque for the Jackie Robinson sculpture in Jersey City

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