Mr. Rodney died Sunday December 20th at his home in a retirement community in Walnut Creek, Calif., said his daughter, Amy Rodney.
Beginning in the decade before Jackie Robinson suited up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, Rodney began pressing for the desegregation of baseball via columns and stories in the Daily Worker's sports pages. By joining with the black press, Rodney was able to implement a plan to get a black player on a major league roster.
He called the ban against blacks in the major leagues "un-American" and "the crime of the big leagues."
During World War II, Mr. Rodney served as an Army combat medic in the Pacific. But he was back home in New York to cover Robinson's debut as a Brooklyn Dodger on April 15, 1947.
"It's hard this Opening Day to write straight baseball and not stop to mention the wonderful fact of Jackie Robinson," Mr. Rodney wrote. "You tell yourself it shouldn't be especially wonderful in America, no more wonderful, for instance, than Negro soldiers being with us on the way overseas through submarine-infested waters in 1943."
Clare, Rodney's wife of 58 years, died in 2004.
Writing for the Daily Worker: “I ran the entire sports department, including laying out the sports section and then I had to get my ass to the ball games, and so on and prove myself as a sportswriter. At first, my main objective was to show that we were a real sports section. Then, the one scoop we had never covered smacked me right in the face. No other papers would talk about the amazing fact that halfway through the 20th century in the land of the free, qualified and over-qualified baseball players couldn’t participate in our national pastime. And it was our national pastime back then much more than it is today. There was no NBA or NFL at the level it’s at today. There were no video games, no Internet, no cable TV. If the Dodgers were playing in Brooklyn and a truck pulled up next to you, it would be unthinkable to not hear Red Barber on the radio or people would find it peculiar. Baseball was huge back then. No other paper said anything about the fact that the black players were locked out of major league baseball. If the Negro leagues had a game in town, you could read about the game, but nothing was ever mentioned that these players were not allowed to play in the majors. Did this mean that all of the sportswriters in New York during this time were racists? No, they were ordinary people, but they knew what they could turn into their paper and if they wrote something saying things like, ‘why aren’t these guys playing in the big leagues?’ their editors would have asked them something like, “why are you bringing this stuff up here?’ That was the culture of the times. Racism was accepted. And that was one of the things that attracted me to the Communists. What the Communists were going down in the South was working for black voting rights, putting their bodies were their mouths were.”