Some of Sinatra's close friends, all of whom are known to the men guarding Jilly's door, do manage to get an escort into the back room. But once they are there they, too, must fend for themselves. On the particular evening, Frank Gifford, the former football player, got only seven yards in three tries. Others who had somehow been close enough to shake Sinatra's hand did not shake it; instead they just touched him on the shoulder or sleeve, or they merely stood close enough for him to see them and, after he'd given them a wink of recognition or a wave or a nod or called out their names (he had a fantastic memory for first names), they would then turn and leave. They had checked in. They had paid their respects. And as I watched this ritualistic scene, I got the impression that Frank Sinatra was dwelling simultaneously in two worlds that were not contemporary.
The popular Pete Reiser, coming back from yet another injury, clearly had been the star of the game, and it was he, not Robinson, who was the focus of the story in the next day’s New York Times. Roscoe McGowen’s game account mentioned Robinson only in relation to his play, leaving columnist Arthur Daley to take note of his debut, which he called uneventful. In retrospect, it would be easy, and fashionable, to attribute the writers’ casual treatment of this history-making game to racism. However, I prefer to think that they handled it in this way because it took place at a time when baseball reporters believed that that’s what they were: baseball reporters, men who felt their sole duty was to report what took place on the field. Red Barber and Connie Desmond, the Dodgers’ radio broadcasters did the same. The mind boggles to think how the media would cover such an event today.