NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Dodgers clattered happily into the clubhouse after winning their opener and Jackie Robinson, seeking a secluded corner, took off his major league blouse slowly as if reluctant to part with it.
"It felt good, very good," the first negro to reach baseball's big top said between the flashes of a piano key smile. "But they really think fast up here."
Robinson, who played eight innings as the Dodgers beat the Braves, 5 to 3, wasn't too satisfied with his own hitless performance even though he scored the winning run on Pete Reiser's seventh inning double.
Hitting second, Robinson grounded out in the first and flied out to left in the third. In the fifth, he hit into a double play, Dick Culler starting the relay while flat on his stomach. Then, in the seventh, Eddie Stanky led off with a walk and Robinson laid down a bunt along the first base line. Earl Torgeson hit Robinson on the arm trying to get him at first and Stanky went to third and Robinson to second on the error. Pete Reiser's double then scored Stanky with the tying run and Robinson with the winning marker.
But Robinson couldn't get over the double play ball he hit, or the fact that he was out at first on such an intricate play.
"I must not have been hustling," he said in self-condemnation. "In the International league I'd have been safe, but up here you can't ease up. They think an awful lot faster."
"You're just getting old, Jackie," said one of the Dodgers.
"Maybe so," Robinson grinned. "But I'll just have to keep hustling and hoping. I'll get my hits sooner or later. Those bunts will drop right for me after a while."
But Robinson wanted it made clear that he didn't go hitless because of nervousness.
"I wasn't at all excited or scared," he said, protesting that he would wait until the shower room was clear before making his ablutions. "I was as loose as could be. And I can't honestly say that this was my biggest thrill in baseball. That came, I guess, when I signed with Montreal. But I would have liked a couple of hits."
The wizened little clubhouse man halted in his bustling about and, shaking a finger at Robinson, said:
"You were looking at one of the best pitchers in the league in that Johnny Sain, Jackie."
"If I wasn't, I'm in for a rough season," Robinson grinned.
Reiser walked past at that moment and Robinson looked after him admiringly.
"What a player that man is," he said. "He's a real one."
Then, going back to his first major league game, Robinson insisted that nobody on the Braves had been "riding" him.
"If they did, I didn't hear it," he said. "As far as I'm concerned they can't ride me any more than they did when I played football at UCLA or in the International league."
Most of the Dodgers were dressing by now and, as Robinson turned to head for the showers, his eyes fell on a pile of congratulatory telegrams waiting for him.
"Holy smokes," he laughed, "somebody certainly got excited about this."
Certainly, Jackie Robinson wasn't.