In 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African-American player in the history of Major League Baseball.
While Robinson is renown for the way he stood up to insults and threat of injury from fans and players alike, Kentucky native and Dodger shortstop Harold “Pee Wee” Reese, then team captain, was famous for the way he accepted and supported Robinson as his teammate.
The Corbin Tourism Commission is offering the opportunity to hear the story from Pee Wee’s mouth, in a manner of speaking.
At 10 a.m. Saturday Dick Usher, a Benton resident, will bring the Dodgers great and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer to life.
“When I was growing up, Pee Wee was an active baseball player. He was a young shortstop from Kentucky and I was a kid from Paducah who was a baseball fan.”
Usher said as he did research into Reese’s life prior to auditioning for the Kentucky Humanities Council in 2007, he became more and more impressed with Reese for his willingness to work with Robinson.
“Pee Wee was a person who had a knack for putting himself in other people’s shoes,” Usher said. “He saw things from other people’s point of view.”
Usher said prior to the start of the 1947 season, a petition began circulating among the team threatening to boycott if Robinson played.
However, the effort quickly lost steam when Reese refused to sign.
“Pee Wee was a really important figure in the integration of baseball even though he was not demonstrative,” Usher said.
While Usher’s performance covers the events of 1947, it is not limited to that.
Usher said he also discusses Reese’s time in the broadcast booth during which he teamed with St. Louis Cardinals’ great Dizzy Dean on CBS game of the week broadcasts between 1960 and 1965.
“He had some really great stories to tell,” Usher said of Reese during his broadcast career.
Reese was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1984.
“I give kind of an overview of his life,” Usher said explaining that the performance is set in 1985 when Reese would have been 65. Usher said the performance lasts approximately 45 minutes.
It is free and open to the public.
Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel said it was Reese’s story and instrumental role in integrating baseball that led her to bring Usher to Corbin.
In addition, Kriebel learned that one of Reese’s relatives, Elizabeth Reese, is a Corbin resident.
Elizabeth Reese has been invited to attend Saturday’s performance.