Major League Baseball finally got something right. Allowing players to wear Jackie Robinson’s number 42 on the anniversary of the day he broke the color barrier is a fitting tribute to both the man and the ballplayer. There was no other ballplayer like Jackie, who was the perfect choice to be the first African-American in the game. He was the perfect mixture of talent and toughness that Branch Rickey needed the both stand out and stand up the world of whites only baseball. An intelligent, driven man, Robinson showed the world that African-Americans were more than equal to whites, both on the field and as human beings. That he was able to perform at the level he did, while enduring death threats and racial epithets is a testimony to his character and strength of will. If you ever get a chance, read the book Jackie Robinson: A Biography by Arnold Rampersand. If you don’t know anything about Jackie other than just sound bites and grainy footage, this book does an admirable job of revealing the man behind the legend.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s and many of my favorite ballplayers over the years have been African-American or foreign born players. It saddens me to think that years ago, talented people like Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn, Lee Smith, and Derrek Lee wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to play baseball in the majors simply because of the color of their skin. Additionally, millions of black Americans were denied the rights that whites enjoyed. Jackie’s breaking of the color barrier in baseball helped break other barriers as well, putting a face and a name to a culture, awakening many whites to the reality of what was going on. The issues of equality and race continue to trouble our country, but as long as there are heroes like Jackie who refuse to accept the status quo, then we will continue to make progress.
The Shooter’s Lounge salutes you, Jackie Robinson. Thank you for making the game of baseball better for everyone. Thank you for your courage both on the field and off. You really made a difference and opened the doors for others with your bravery and conviction.