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Happy Jackie Robinson Day

Apr 15, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

Jackie Robinson

April 15th is the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut.  Tons of players will wear #42 in his honor today (which I don’t much care for, but that’s another rant).  That dude down at that university in Georgia or Florida or wherever will issue his annual report about minority participation in baseball (which I don’t much care for either, but that’s also another rant).

Major League Baseball is obviously doing stuff too. One of them is the launch of where  60+ baseball players and other celebrity types appear on video and express what Jackie Robinson and his legacy means to them.  Also, tomorrow at noon and 6PM easter, MLB Network will air a documentary called Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson. It’s hosted by Curtis Granderson and narrated by Dennis Haysbert (who, sadly, is not likely to be doing the Cerrano voice).  It focuses on Robinson’s role in the civil rights movement, post-baseball retirement for the most part. A preview of it can be seen here.

This sounds cool. Because, while I mean this as no offense whatsoever to Robinson’s baseball legacy, that part of his life is a well-known and well-told story by now. Indeed, it’s bordering on fable and simplistic morality tale, and has been sapped somewhat of its historical power due to over-exposure and reductionism in my view.  Jackie Robinson’s post-playing career, however,  is every bit as interesting and complex as him breaking the color line, even if it wasn’t as significant.  And I tend to be a fan of interesting and complex, and I like to learn new things rather than recite the old, so I am really looking forward to this.

Anyway, happy 42 Day.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    I love that baseball wants to do something to honor Jackie and everything that goes along with his inclusion in the sport. I hate that when I turn on Sportscenter tonight, every single player will be wearing 42, and I’ll have no idea who the hell anyone is.

    So there’s good, and there’s bad.

  2. Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    This man was more important to our country than he was the Dodgers.

  3. Mark Armour - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    Oddly, the reverence for Jackie as social icon has made him underrated as a baseball player. He was one of the two best players in the league (with Musial) for several years, the best player on one of history’s greatest teams, and one of history;s best ever second baseman (to me, its Morgan first, then Jackie).

  4. cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    He was once chased down de Gaspe Avenue by the people in the neighborhood where he lived in Montreal when he played for the Montreal Royals. Yup. We did that. Chased Jackie Robinson down a street. Of course they wanted to get his autograph, give him a hug, carry him around on their shoulders and name their kids after him, but hell, I’m sure they apologized to him for it.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:06 PM

      ‘Cause Canucks are always all apologizey and everything.

      • cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

        Yeah. Sorry ’bout that.

  5. Utley's Hair - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    I actually don’t have a problem with all the 42s out there today. I think it’s cool—until I’ll have to explain it to my kid when he asks why he can’t tell who’s playing where and why. Though that will give me an opportunity to explain what Jackie meant to the game and civilization as a whole.

    • cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      Which, I think, is the point. After all, that number is The Answer.

    • Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:38 PM

      Actually UT, after I had to explain it to my kid, he went right to my movie collection and pulled out my copy of his movie. JR is my 9 yr old’s favorite player to this day.

  6. simon94022 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    My only beef with the Jackie Robinson commemoration is the overall tone of shame over baseball’s color barrier, as though it was unique. Baseball has a lot to be proud of in the history of desegragation. In the spring of 1947, the United States had a segregated military in which blacks were second class, usually given menial tasks and commanded by white officers. In the South, blacks lived under the tyranny of Jim Crow. In the north, they were informally confined to urban neighborhoods and essentially unseen and unnoticed by whites. Schools were segregated everywhere in America; the Catholic schools were desegrating in a few places like Washington, DC where there were some black Catholics, but it would be another seven years before the process of integrating public schools even started — and then it was a long, bitterly resisted and occasionally violent process. Most churches were either all black or all white. Workplaces were not integrated at all, anywhere, unless you count the presence of blacks as janitors and railroad porters. African Americans were openly discriminated against in housing and employment. There was a member of the Ku Klux Klan on the Supreme Court (Hugo Black), and dozens of Klansmen in Congress.

    A pretty nasty situation throughout society. And in that context, Branch Rickey’s decision to put an African American on the roster was unbelievably gutsy and heroic. The NBA didn’t admit a black player for another three years, and the Washington Redskins held out until 1962, and even then had to be threatened by the Federal Government, which controlled their stadium lease. So baseball is right to atone for its color barrier, but it should also take pride in having pioneered integration, ahead of almost every other institution in America. I just wish that perspective was included a bit more in commentaries about Jackie Robinson Day.

    • Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      I tried to click thumbs up 20 x but it wouldn’t let me.

    • jkcalhoun - Apr 15, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      That baseball required 63 years from the time of Fleet Walker before desegregating and yet still led other American institutions is very very humbling.

      For a measure of that span: it’s now 64 years since.

    • clydeserra - Apr 15, 2011 at 4:40 PM

      Hugo Black had been a member of the Klan, but could hardly be called a Klansman when he was on the court.

  7. veracity3648 - Apr 15, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    What Jackie Robinson accomplished in his life cannot be overstated. He was, and always will be, a national hero! He’s the only person who was truly “bigger than the game.” Given his demonstrated personal integrity and triumph over ignorance, the fact that even Dr. Martin Luter King, Jr. said: “If there was no Jackie, there would have been no Martin” and the consideration that we could virtually classify the country into two time periods, before Jackie Robinson and after Jackie Robinson, so mammoth was his impact, a national holiday should be created in his honor.

    When we consider his baseball accomplishments, let’s not forget that due to the prior disgraceful banning of blacks in major league baseball, he didn’t even start in the majors until he was 28 years old. Imagine if he was signed like some 17 and 18 year olds, where his records would have been? Still, with his hands veritably tied, enduring dangers and inhuman degradations on public fields around the country, he was still the first Rookie of the Year, led the majors in hitting in 1949 and was selected as Most Valuable Player, played and excelled in several positions, revolutionized the game with his electrifying base running and still, incredibly, worked part-time jobs, including selling appliances in a department store, to support his family.

    His history also includes being the first athlete at UCLA to win varsity letters in four sports, baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941 he was named to the All-American football team.

    Finally, consider his final words, which he wrote and which appear as his epitaph: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Unselfish to the end!

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