MONTREAL – A piece of Montreal history has made its way back to the city.
The original first two contracts signed by pioneering baseball player Jackie Robinson are now on display at Montreal City Hall.
The contracts — one with the Montreal Royals and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers — are valued at $36 million.
“We believe they were acquired by the borough historian of Brooklyn shortly after they were signed,” Mykalai Kontilai, founder of Collector’s Cafe, said.
“He then unfortunately locked them in a safety deposit for almost 70 years until our company had the fortune to acquire them.”
Robinson broke Major League baseball’s colour barrier by signing with the Montreal Royals in 1946.
Many would say it’s a move that transformed the face of sports, forever.
“I interviewed Martin Luther King once, and I begun by introducing him by saying that Martin Luther King was the founder of the civil rights movement,” said American talk show host Larry King, who was in attendance as the Collector’s Cafe’s ambassador.
“He corrected me and said, ‘Jackie Robinson was the founder of the civil rights movement.'”
Seven decades after that historic moment in Montreal, the return of the contracts is a coming home of sorts, a way to remember one of Montreal’s adoptive sons.
“He used to say, ‘It was probably the first time that I had white people chasing me just because they were loving me,'” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said.
“It was not about hatred, it was about love.”
“He told me that one of the happiest years of his life was spent in 1946 in Montreal, Quebec,” King said.
“He never saw racial discrimination, he never was booed, he never was treated badly.”
The event fanned the fire of those who still dream of bringing the Montreal Expos back, especially after King — a baseball enthusiast — tweeted out his thoughts on baseball in the city.
“Montreal should never have lost baseball,” King said at the unveiling, adding that he’d be open to thinking about owning part of the team.
The contracts will be on display until Thursday June 24 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
After that, Kontilai said they will continue to travel around North America, hitting the Washington D.C. for the reception for the opening of the African American Museum in September. They were also invited by the Atlanta Braves and other teams, closing the tour in Los Angeles, where Robinson lived.
Kontilai added he would only sell the documents to an institution or an individual that will keep them on public display.
Until then, they will continue to tour them.