This Saturday marks 70 years since Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseballs “color line”.
It was so much more than that, it would be the next summer that President Truman desegregated the armed forces with executive order 9981.
It would be eight years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat down in Montgomery Alabama.
And Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” Speech was still 16 years in the future.
That’s how far ahead general manager Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers were ahead of the civil rights movement.
Remember there were “Negro Leagues” due to the segregation of professional baseball.
Ask any person of color, minority or woman who has been the “first” or even the “only” in any professional, academic or even social setting and its challenging at best.
I personally owe so much to Jackie, not just that he was the first, but how he did it.
And still playing some of the best “five tool” baseball most people have ever seen.
Major League Baseball does such a good job of honoring Jackie that no one wears his number 42 except on his day April 15th.
Mo Vaughn & Mariano Rivera were the last players to wear it as their regular number in recent years and they knew the significance of the number.
Any of us who were involved in baseball and were a minority couldn’t help but know Jackie’s story, struggle and triumph.
Baseball was “America’s Pastime” back, then it was “the sport”, football, basketball and other sports would grow in later years.
People dressed up to go to games back then, it was an event.
Sure we’ve had World Series Champions on both sides of town in the past 12 years and our games are something now but back then with double headers every Sundays, day games all the time, baseball was primetime before 7 P.M.
And Jackie came on front and center not just has the first minority but soon was one of the best players on one of the best teams.
Imagine the pressure, the scrutiny, any of us who have dealt with racism at school or work and he had it times ten.
Also remember baseball was pretty localized back then, no teams west of the Mississippi River, no interleague play, no designated hitter.
Jackie didn’t bring all of those changes but he was part of the first big change of baseball.
For those of us who love this game, even when it’s slow, even when it rains, even when our team gets blown out and we go through pitchers like snacks at a bad White Sox game.
Jackie came in this game running, hitting, catching, stealing bases and throwing, its what I meant by “five tool”, he did it all at the highest level with the world watching.
On top of that he was an activist himself, involved in the civil rights movement because he was civil rights.
He showed us how to break barriers but not have your soul be broken. He stood up to adversity and hit it like a belt high fastball into the left field cheap seats.
He took his opportunity and didn’t run from it, he ran with it as if coming around third base to slide into home.
Jackie not only won at this beautiful game but he won at life and lead a existence the rest of us can only admire and emulate in our own lives everyday.
Filed under: Uncategorized