Vin Scully on Jackie Robinson – it doesn’t get better than that!
“The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.” ~ Jackie Robinson
It’s been 70 years since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Many players followed, changing the face of the game, sports, and society, forever. Significant progress was accomplished in the United States in the decades that followed Jackie’s MLB debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. But there is still work to do.
Many people have examined the social significance of Jackie Robinson integrating baseball. We have also come to know about Robinson’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Nonetheless, there remains unfinished business that must be addressed.
So, yes, today is Jackie Robinson Day throughout MLB and MiLB ballparks. While we celebrate Jackie Robinson’s enormous contributions to society, let’s also think of ways to honor his memory by continuing his work.
Yesterday, I posted a link to Adam Jones talking about Jackie Robinson and blacks in baseball in 2015. Here’s Marlins’ players Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton said last year:
Today is Jackie Robinson Day. Throughout major and minor league baseball, players will be wearing uniform no. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson’s contributions to baseball and the nation. In Vero Beach, FL, Minor League Baseball and the Florida State League will hold its third annual Jackie Robinson Celebration Dodgertown. The Brevard County Manatees will play the Lucie Mets.
On Monday, the new Ken Burns’ documentary, “Jackie Robinson,” premiered on PBS. Also, MLB announced on Monday that it will sponsor 30 Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars (4-year funding for each, one for every MLB team) and it will contribute $1 million to the Jackie Robinson Museum, to be opened some day in New York.
Here are just a few more Robinson-related tributes planned for Friday:
- The baseball team at UCLA, where Robinson went to college, will wear special edition Robinson-era “throwback jerseys” as well as cleats provided by Adidas.
- Adidas will provide their special edition baseball cleats the UCLA baseball team as well as the MLB players who represent Adidas. The shoes feature newspaper-style headlines on the uppers and Jackie Robinson’s #42 embroidered on the side.
- Beginning today, Jackie Robinson’s contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers will be on display at the New York Historical Society before moving on to other cities.
- Several MLB and MiLB will be celebrating Jackie Robinson Day with special promotions and activities. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, will be giving away a replica Jackie Robinson jersey. The AA Lehigh Valley IronPigs will have a life-size, hand-carved wood statue of Robinson at their game as well as other promotions.
- The Negro Southern League Museum (NSLM) and the Birmingham Barons in Birmingham, Alabama, will celebrate Jackie Robinson day with a marching band and other festivities at the NSLM followed by a Barons game at Regions Field, which is adjacent to the museum.
- The City of Philadelphia will formally honor Jackie Robinson, having recently passed a resolution to celebrate April 15, 2016, “as a day honoring the lifetime achievements and lasting influence of Jackie Robinson and apologizing for the racism he faced as a player while visiting Philadelphia.”
- Also in Philly, the Business Association of West Parkside will hold its annual Jackie Robinson Day festivities, which include a ceremony at the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park (at Belmont and Parkside avenues). The entire event will be broadcast live on Philadelphia’s WURD (900 AM). At the event, there will be a rededication of the Jackie Robinson mural.
- The National Baseball Hall of Fame will offer a guided tour of their “Pride and Passion” exhibit and a screening of the movie “42.”
- And, last but not least, it appears that Huston-Tollotson University in Decatur, GA, has issued a resolution honoring Jackie Robinson.
Tonight’s the night for the big PBS premiere of Ken Burns’ new documentary, “Jackie Robinson.” The two-parter airs on PBS at 9 and 11 pm (Eastern) tonight and tomorrow night. It also will be repeated a few more times over the next couple weeks (though not always at convenient times, like 2:30 am). All I’ve seen is the various promo trailers – nine different ones are posted on the PBS YouTube page. Several more are on the PBS website. They even showed them during Spring Training games this year.
Have you ever really wanted to see something but simultaneously feared you might be disappointed? I get that way with stories of monumental importance when they are made into movies and documentaries. I still have the movie “42” sitting on the shelf with my other DVDs still in its plastic wrapper. I want to watch it, but don’t want to feel let down. I feel the same way about books about Jackie Robinson. The first and best book I ever read about Robinson was the classic, Baseball’s Great Experiment, by Jules Tygiel. I have many other books by and about Robinson on my bookshelf. But I’m afraid they won’t be as good as Tygiel’s.
Nonetheless, I’ll try to remember to watch the PBS documentary tonight. Jackie’s that important.
If Willard Brown was the fourth black player in MLB history, who else was in the top 10? Naturally, that depends on how and who you count. Thus, my latest baseball list is woefully incomplete and somewhat of a mash-up, combining the first black player for each MLB team, with the first ten black baseball players. With a few other notable firsts. But at least it’s a cool list!
|Player||MLB Debut||Debuted With|
|Jackie Robinson||April 15, 1947||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Larry Doby||July 5, 1947||Cleveland Indians|
|Hank Thompson and Willard Brown – first black teammates||July 17, 1947 and July 19, 1947||St. Louis Browns|
|Dan Bankhead – first black pitcher||August 26, 1947||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Roy Campanella – first black catcher||April 20, 1948||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Satchel Paige – first AL black pitcher||July 9, 1948|
|Monte Irvin||July 8, 1949||New York Giants|
|Sam Jethroe||April 18, 1950||Boston Braves|
|Minnie Minoso||May 1, 1951||Chicago White Sox|
|Willie Mays||May 24, 1951||New York Giants|
|Bob Trice||September 13, 1953||Philadelphia Athletics|
|Ernie Banks||September 17, 1953||Chicago Cubs|
|Curt Roberts||April 13, 1954||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Tom Alston||April 13, 1954||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Chuck Harmon and Nino Escalera||April 17, 1954||Cincinnati Reds|
|Carlos Paula||September 6, 1954||Washington Senators|
|Elston Howard||April 14, 1955||New York Yankees|
|John Kennedy||April 22, 1957||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Ozzie Virgil||June 6, 1958||Detroit Tigers|
|Pumpsie Green||July 21, 1959||Boston Red Sox|
Images courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library