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A guide to exploring Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn

Wednesday - 4/10/2013, 6:07pm  ET

This undated image provided by the Brooklyn Cyclones shows a statue of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson at MCU Park in the Coney Island section of the Brooklyn borough of New York, where the minor league Cyclones team plays. A new film, “42,” tells the inspiring story of how Robinson integrated Major League Baseball when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The pedestal of the statue states that Reese, captain of the Dodgers, “stood by Jackie Robinson against prejudiced fans and fellow players” by walking over to Robinson, standing next to him and “silencing the taunts of the crowd” during a game in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Brooklyn Cyclones)

BETH J. HARPAZ
AP Travel Editor

NEW YORK (AP) -- With the movie "42" bringing the Jackie Robinson story to a new generation, fans young and old may be inspired to visit some of the places in Brooklyn connected to the African-American athlete who integrated Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

In Coney Island, a statue portrays Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, the white Dodger who stood by him in the face of racist taunts. At the cemetery on the border of Brooklyn and Queens where Robinson is buried, admirers still leave baseballs and other mementos. And for fans who enjoy irony -- or who remain bitter about the Dodgers' departure to Los Angeles in 1957 -- there's a "No Ball Playing" sign at the housing complex where the Dodgers' storied stadium, Ebbets Field, once stood.

Joseph Dorinson, author of "Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports and the American Dream," says it's no accident that the color barrier was broken by a Brooklyn team. "Jackie made it in Brooklyn, and no other place, because of the multicultural and ethnic diversity here," he said. That diversity still exists here today.

Here's a guide to exploring Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn.

STATUE

The life-size statue in Coney Island shows Robinson and Reese arm in arm. It's inscribed with the story of how Reese, captain of the Dodgers, "stood by Jackie Robinson against prejudiced fans and fellow players ... silencing the taunts of the crowd" during a game in Cincinnati. The statue is located outside MCU Park, where the minor league Cyclones team plays at Surf Avenue and West 17th Street, near the last stop on the D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island.

HOME AND CHURCH

Robinson lived in several places in Brooklyn before moving to Queens and later Connecticut with his wife and children. On a tidy block in East Flatbush, a two-story brick house at 5224 Tilden Ave. with a rusting fence and peeling paint bears a plaque that states: "The first African-American major league baseball player lived here from 1947 to 1949." Local officials have started an effort to landmark the house.

Robinson and his wife Rachel also lived for a time at 526 MacDonough St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Although much of the movie was filmed in the South, some scenes were shot on MacDonough because the filmmakers wanted to show the building's distinctive front stoop, a common feature of Brooklyn homes. The production company used the Nazarene Congregational Church at 506 MacDonough St. for storage and wardrobe while filming, according to Nazarene's pastor, the Rev. Conrad Tillard.

When Robinson first arrived in New York, he lived for a time with Nazarene's then-assistant pastor, the Rev. Lacy Covington and his wife Florence. "Church and faith were central to Jackie Robinson's success," said Tony Carnes, who publishes an online magazine called A Journey Through NYC Religions.

Nazarene was considered a "mink coat church" at the time, Tillard said, with an educated, affluent African-American congregation. Robinson later came back to the church to "make an impassioned speech about the dangers of drugs," Tillard said. Robinson's son, Jack, who'd served in the Vietnam War, was a heroin addict.

GRAVE SITE

Robinson died in 1972, just a year after his son died in a car accident. They are buried, along with the Covingtons and Robinson's mother-in-law, in Cypress Hills Cemetery. "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives," reads the inscription on Robinson's tombstone. Mementos left by fans at the grave include a bat and baseballs, with one ball bearing a handwritten note thanking Robinson "for being an inspiration, strong and courageous." On a recent day, Ronnie Carvey, Taneisha Beckford and their 3-year-old son were among those stopping at the grave to pay respects, with Carvey explaining to his child that Robinson was a "famous baseball player."

The cemetery entrance is 833 Jamaica Ave., Brooklyn, near the Cypress Hills stop on the J subway line, also reachable via the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Robinson's plot is in section 6 on the Queens side of the graveyard, on Jackie Robinson Way near Cypress Road, across from a large stone mausoleum near a low black fence, tall evergreen tree and hedge row. A map can be found at http://nycin60.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/chcmap.png.

EBBETS FIELD AND WASHINGTON PARK

Robinson retired after the 1956 season. Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, still a much-hated name in parts of New York City, moved the team to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. The park was replaced by an apartment complex at 1720 Bedford Ave., in Crown Heights, where a stone in a wall is inscribed with the words: "This is the former site of Ebbets Field."

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