George Bates grew up in a family of loyal Dodgers fans. One day in 1946, on a trip to Florida, George had the opportunity to see his beloved baseball team as they were conducting Spring training in Daytona Beach.
During that training season, the Dodgers organization debuted the first African American player in Major League Baseball history, Jackie Robinson. His presence was met with mixed reception, but the Bates family wanted to cheer on the newly signed player.
While filing into the stands, George and his brother, Robert, were spotted at random and asked to fill-in as bat boys for the game. George’s father, Robert Bates, Sr., filmed his sons at work, and ended up capturing the oldest known footage of Robinson as a professional player.
At StoryCorps, George sat down with his son, Bill Bates, to remember supporting Robinson’s first steps to making history.
Bill and George Bates, around the time Bill first saw the footage. Courtesy of Bill Bates.
More information about the Bates’ story can be found on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. Film footage courtesy of Bill Bates.
Top Photo: George Bates interacting with Jackie Robinson during a Spring training game in 1946. Courtesy of Bill Bates.
Hear more about Jackie Robinson’s journey to the big leagues in Daytona Beach.