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Edina man shares stories of friendship with Jackie Robinson

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Just as the Jackie Robinson film "42" opens in theaters, an Edina man has opened up his book of memories to talk about his friendship with the legendary athlete who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier, the Pioneer Press reports.

Ron Rabinovitz, 67, told Bob Sansevere in an email interview that his friendship with Robinson began when he was a 7-year-old boy living in Wisconsin.

Rabinovitz said he and Robinson exchanged letters, and their friendship lasted until Robinson's death in 1972. The letters went on to become the basis of a MLB Network documentary "Letters for Jackie," which first aired in 2011 on the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking MLB's color barrier.

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According to the Pioneer Press, Rabinovitz has also spoken about Robinson at schools and baseball's Hall of Fame, and their friendship is also the basis of play by Oscar-winning short film producer Eric Simonson.

Titled "The Incredible Season of Ronnie Rabinovitz," the play is scheduled to open at the History Theater in St. Paul on Feb. 1, 2014.

Rabinovitz, who also shared some memories of Robinson in his introduction of a preview screening of "42" last week, told Sansevere that he thought the movie was "excellent," and not only because it showed Jackie Robinson's plight, but his wife Rachel Robinson's struggles as well.

Rabinovitz said that Rachel Robinson was "right there by his side," and even though Jackie Robinson was directly taking the verbal abuse during the games. Rabinovitz said, "Can you imagine her sitting in the stands having to listen to all those cat calls and the verbal abuse he took, not to mention the fear she had of he being shot or hurt seriously?"

He also told Sansevere that the biggest lesson he learned from his Brooklyn Dodgers hero was to "never to back down on a cause you truly believe in -- no matter what the odds against you might be."

Rabinovitz talked with WCCO-TV's Mike Binkley as well, and shared some personal photos with Robinson (above). On the left, he is pictured with the baseball legend at Milwaukee County Stadium, and on the right is a photo from when Robinson came to Rabinovitz's 10th birthday party.

"Can you imagine having Jackie Robinson sing 'Happy Birthday to Me?'" Rabinovitz asked Binkley.

See Rabinovitz's interview with Binkley below.

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