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Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson Day

Apr 14, 2010, 5:15 PM EST

Jackie Robinson sliding.jpgTomorrow marks the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Last year baseball began encouraging all players and umpires to wear number 42 in Jackie’s honor. Most do it. Mariano Rivera, however, controversially refuses to change from the number he has always worn. How he doesn’t catch hell for this I have no idea, but that’s what happens when the media is so sick with east coast bias. I digress.

It’s probably an unpopular position, but I’m rather ambivalent about 42 being retired in the first place. The Dodgers should do it because Jackie was their guy, but I always found it cool when the Mo Vaughns of the world chose to wear number 42 as a tribute.  I go back and forth on the idea of retired numbers to being with, actually. Sometimes I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes I think it’s rather silly. As I sit here this afternoon I’m struck by the notion that exactly no one would forget Jackie Robinson if we let someone choose to wear number 42 as an inspirational and reverential gesture.

That minor point aside, tomorrow isn’t all about history. Major League baseball has tied in multiple charitable and scholarship programs both on its own behalf and in conjunction with the Jackie Robinson foundation and tomorrow will serve as a reminder and, in some cases, fundraisers for many of those programs (details here).

I like that aspect of Jackie Robinson Day much more than the solemn remembrances which, for as nice as they are, have a habit of turning Robinson into a secular saint, however unwittingly.  As a result I feel like we lose a bit more of Jackie Robinson the man every year and dive further into myth and legend. It’s probably inevitable, I suppose.

  1. ditmars1929 - Apr 14, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    I’ve always thought that a sport-wide retirement of a number is bullshit, mainly because I believe it to be a team honor. Seriously, it makes no sense.
    And then you have the pathetic NY Mets, who think that they are the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the highlight of their new Ebbets Field copy stadium is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. I’ll ask – how many at bats did Robinson have for the Mets, how many games did Robinson play in Queens, and how many games have the Mets played in Brooklyn?
    Also, if you want a sport-wide retirement of a number, shouldn’t it be that of the greatest ballplayer in history, #3?
    Lastly, Craig, Mariano Rivera doesn’t catch hell for wearing #42 simply because he’s Mariano Rivera. How’s your midwestern bias treating you?

  2. okobojicat - Apr 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    All the ball players wearing #42 is among the most frustrating things I can think of during the Bud Selig era. Its stupid. It makes the players look idiotic out there all wearing the same number. I loved it when one or two players would do it and then they would then auction those jerseys off for charity. That was great.
    other things that annoy me:
    Interleague play. Seriously, its among the dumbest ideas ever invented by Selig. It f***s up the already ridiculously difficult to schedule unbalanced schedule (which I do love).
    The arbitrary limits of replay to HR only. It should also be available to plays at the bases and catches where after the call no players advanced. If players advanced or were thrown out on the bases, then the call as it was made must stand.
    Slotitng system for the draft. Honestly bud, you’re screwing the teams that try to follow it and it only benefits the reach teams by continuing to push it.
    Mitchell Report: honestly, myself, 200 hours of google and a telephone that couldn’t call out would’ve been more productive.

  3. okobojicat - Apr 14, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Lastly, Craig, Mariano Rivera doesn’t catch hell for wearing #42 simply because he’s Mariano Rivera. How’s your midwestern bias treating you?
    A Yankee fan with no sense of humor? Never

  4. Old Gator - Apr 14, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Great – and we can have Orlando Hudson give the keynote speech and remind us how far we’ve come. Or maybe he would prefer to wait until after he retires.

  5. Mr. Furious - Apr 14, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    Heh. And we can have Torii Hunter chastising black non-US players that wear the number, since they’re “impostors,” after all. :-)

  6. TC - Apr 14, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    I believe it was Rob Neyer who had the idea a few years ago that instead of retiring the numbers of players who were so significant across all of baseball–Jackie Robinson, of course, is more important to baseball than he ever really was to the Dodgers–the number should be treated as an award. A player is awarded the 42 as a symbol of his commitment to… equality, good sportsmanship, something. Barry Bonds, who was awesome, could never wear the 42. But maybe Jamie Moyer or, hell, Albert Pujols.
    I like that.

  7. Libservative - Apr 14, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    I totally understand MLB’s recognition of Jackie Robinson’s contribution to baseball. He represented, after all, the single biggest sociological change in the sport’s history. And we should never forget that or him.
    But baseball isn’t sociology. It’s sport. A gathering of men playing a kids’ game. Ultimately, what matters most is what happens on the field.
    I’m fully aware of what Jackie Robinson went through, and what he represents. But from what I know of the man, he himself would have wanted the number retirings and all that to be reserved for accomplishments on the field, not off of it.

  8. DugoutNut - Apr 14, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    Shame you don’t have a sense of humor. But I can see, being a Yankee fan and all.

  9. Curious George - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    A gathering of men playing a kids’ game

    I never understood this old canard. Baseball was first played by adults and later played by children. When you see children playing baseball, they are playing an adults’ game.

  10. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Last year baseball began encouraging all players and umpires to wear number 42 in Jackie’s honor. Most do it. Mariano Rivera, however, controversially refuses to change from the number he has always worn. How he doesn’t catch hell for this I have no idea, but that’s what happens when the media is so sick with east coast bias. I digress

    +1 Craig, was wondering how many people aren’t going to get this reference.

  11. Evan - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Craig, you are such a pot-stirrer!
    .
    I went to my first game at Fenway last year and I remember seeing a navy blue # 42 up on their board. I was CONVINCED that the Red Sox put Rivera’s number up there as a tribute to the closer they bested in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. When I voiced my anger to the Sox fans around me, I was told that it was a tribute to Robinson.
    .
    If a team wants to retire a number, that’s one thing, but I think its silly for a league to retire a number. People don’t remember Robinson because he wore #42. They remember him because he broke the color barrier and was an amazing baseball player.

  12. Sports Painter - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    Mariano may be superstitious. Why jinx a great thing? It’s certainly not a sign of disrespect.

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