Jackie Robinson: My Pen Pal

ronnie Rabinowitz reading out one of the letters Jackie Robinson wrote him
Sixty years after he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier, America remembers Jackie Robinson as a pioneer. But one man has his own unique memories of Robinson, and they date back to the time when he just 7 years old.

Ronnie Rabinovitz of Sheboygan, Wis., was Jackie Robinson's pen pal and friend.

"It's nice to know how you feel about me and it means a great deal," one of the letters from Robinson reads.

But why would Jackie Robinson, famous around the world, take time to write to a kid, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers asked Rabinovitz.

"I don't know," Rabinovitz says. "We were so different. I was white; he was black. I was Jewish; he was Christian. And yet there was this bond."

This unlikeliest of friendships began in 1954 with a simple request for an autographed photo. It developed into much more.

"I'd run to the mailbox to see if there was another letter," Rabinovitz said. "If there wasn't, I was a little disappointed. If there was, it was like, 'oh, I got another letter from Jackie!'"

Even though he was a child, he'd get a handwritten letter from the Major Leaguer every six weeks or so. And whenever the Dodgers came to nearby Milwaukee, Robinson made time for Ronnie.

Over time, Rabinovitz came to realize that Robinson was much more than just a baseball player.

"He changed this whole world, and he did it alone," Rabinovitz said.

Nowadays, Rabinovitz, who makes his living as a salesman near Minneapolis, gets his greatest joy from sharing his stories with a whole new generation to whom Robinson is just a name in a history book.

Sunday, on the 60th anniversary of his debut, America will pay tribute to Jackie Robinson. A now-61-year-old man will remember his special friend.