Jan 22, 2010, 5:40 PM EDT
Before my time, but worthy of note. Bragan managed the Braves in both Milwaukee and Atlanta, and managed the Pirates and Indians in the mid-to-late 50s. He didn’t manage long and he was never at the helm of any transcendent teams. He was probably best remembered for the time that, while managing, he walked on the field sipping a soft drink through a straw, discussing the play in question with the umpires and offering each a taste of his drink.
So why do I think he’s worthy of note? From something the brilliant baseball historian Steve Treder said over at Baseball Think Factory earlier this afternoon:
Bragan was an ardent anti-integrationist, one of the most vocal members of the 1947 Dodgers opposed to Jackie Robinson’s presence on the team. But once the season unfolded, and he observed what Robinson went through and how he handled it, Bragan began to greatly admire Robinson, and he saw that he’d been wrong all along, that what he’d been taught to believe was nonsense. Bragan became a vocal champion of integration.
It takes a big person to be that self-aware, and to grow that way. May he rest in peace.
I’m often accused of being a moral relativist. And yeah, maybe I am too forgiving about a lot of things. But I just can’t shake the notion that people should not be defined by their worst moments.
Bragan, like a lot of young men of his vintage, probably said and did a lot of stupid things before and immediately after becoming Jackie Robinson’s teammate in 1947. But by all accounts he learned and he grew, and he leaves a body of work that, while perhaps not worthy of sainthood, no doubt brought more good than harm to this world.
I think that’s something worth thinking about the next time some athlete acts out or gets arrested or tests positive for some drug. We notice the worst moments. But we shouldn’t let them define people.
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