June 2020 Recap: Has Anything Changed?

A black man in baseball uniform with the letters "K" and "C" on the chest
Jackie Robinson with the Kansas City Monarchs

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans and the subsequent protests for racial justice across the world, the Baseball Sociologist has devoted the entire month of June to matters of race: black players and coaches, the Negro Leagues, and racism in baseball (check out the links below).

There is still much to be done in terms of leveling the playing field in baseball and society. Sociology – including Baseball Sociology – studies these issues, focuses attention on them, and attempts to offer solutions. These and other social issues remain an important part of my work. Although we are closing out June and moving on to additional topics, the fight for equity continues.

~ baseballrebecca

Players/Teams Speaking Out:

Motivational Quotes:

Willie Horton:

Jackie Robinson:

Negro Leagues:

Black Coaches:

Boston Red Sox and Pumpsie Green

Letter from Jackie Robinson to the White House, 1972


I found the above letter on the National Archives website the other day. The site explains the origin of the letter: “Time had taken its toll upon Jackie Robinson. Failing health contributed to the pessimistic tone of this letter to Presidential assistant Roland L. Elliott. In addition to suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and the effects of several heart attacks, his hair had turned almost white, he had lost most of his vision, and he was forced to walk with use of a cane. In addition, the deaths of his baseball mentor, Branch Rickey; his mother; and his first son, Jackie Robinson, Jr., together with the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and John and Bobby Kennedy weighed heavily on him. Further, the escalation of violence on all sides, and the growing radicalization of the civil rights movement , made him fear that wholesale bloodshed between the races was imminent. He died at the age of 53, scarcely 6 months after writing this letter.”

Maybe its time to honor Jackie Robinson’s memory by fixing the societal problems he sought to address.

~ baseballrebecca

The Sociological Importance of April 15 in Baseball History

Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1954.jpgIn this period of no baseball, I’ve been reading up on baseball history. There are several good sites for this, including: Today in Baseball History, Nationalpastime.com, and Baseball Reference. As I checked out these sites today, I was surprised to learn how important April 15th is for baseball – both historically and sociologically.

Of course, we all know April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The 50th anniversary of his feat was commemorated in 1997 and during the celebration the Commissioner of Baseball announced that the number 42 would be retired for every team. On April 15, 2004, MLB began the annual tradition of celebrating Jackie Robinson Day.

April 15, however, was the date for several other important firsts, including:

  • The first game played by a “full-blooded” American Indian. On April 15, 1921, Moses J. Yellow Horse (also known as Chief Yellow Horse), made his Major League debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the Pawnee tribe in Oklahoma and played for the Pirates in 1921 and 1922.
  • The first Puerto Rican to play Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1942, Hiram Bithorn made his Major League debut. Also a right-handed pitcher, Bithorn was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1916 and spent four years in the majors.
  • The first Major League game played on the west coast. On April 15, 1958, the first File:Reggie Jackson - New York Yankees - 1981.jpgMLB game was played in California as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet for the first time.
  • The first Major Leaguer with facial hair – at least since the 1930s. On April 15, 1972, Reggie Jackson, reflecting the times, played for the Oakland A’s wearing a mustache. This began a trend with the team and the 1972 A’s became known as the “Mustache Gang.”

There were many other baseball firsts on April 15, but perhaps none as sociologically important as the ones mentioned above.

~ baseballrebecca



Monday Baseball Motivation


Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King, Jr. receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Howard University in 1957. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

“Jackie Robinson made my success possible. Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s remember the impact sports had on Dr. King and that King had on sports. Let his words and actions inspire us, just as Jackie Robinson inspired him (and us).

Happy MLK, Jr., Day!

~ baseballrebecca





Black Hockey History Tour

img_4675With the 100th birthday of the Negro Leagues just around the corner, the National Hockey League’s Black Hockey History Tour can help us get ready for it. The mobile tour will visit 14 NHL cities to: “celebrate today’s stars, while also looking back at the pioneers and trailblazers who helped shape NHL history.” The NHL Diversity and Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador, Willie O’Ree, will make appearances at selected stops. O’Ree was the first Black player in the NHL.  Since 1998, he has established 39 local grassroots hockey programs to get kids interested in the game.

img_4683The Black Hockey History Tour bus may contain only a small exhibit space, but it is just the right size to tell the story of the fewer then 100 black players in the history of the NHL, teach us about diversity, and celebrate the contributions of African American, African Canadian, and women hockey players. The exhibit includes information on current players as well as notable black players in the NHL and other leagues in Canada and the United States. It even includes a brief piece on women in hockey and a video comparing the experiences of black hockey players to the careers of Jackie Robinson and other black MLB players.

Like the Negro Leagues, hockey also experienced a color barrier. The Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes was started in 1895 by black Baptist churches in Nova Scotia. By the turn of the century, individual all-black teams were operating in the Ontario Hockey League. The first black hockey star was Herb Carnegie, who began his career with the Toronto Young Rangers in 1938. Ten years later, Carnegie was given a tryout with the New York Rangers and was offered a contract to play in the img_4673Rangers’ minor league system. He turned them down, however, because by then he was already earning more money playing in the semi-pro Quebec Provincial League.

Approximately 10 years later, Willie O’Ree made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins. O’Ree, known as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” was called up from the minors to replace an injured player. According to Wikipedia, “[p]laying a short career of only 45 games, O’Ree faced racism after being recalled from the Canadian minor leagues.  While in the minor leagues, O’Ree recalls the racism he faced as predominantly muted. However, as soon as O’Ree entered into the NHL, racist remarks and actions by hostile fans and players appeared.”

The NHL’s Black Hockey History Tour kicked-off its second season this week in Washington, DC, outside of the Embassy of Canada. Its next stop is in Detroit, MI (Jan. 18-19), before heading to St. Louis and Ferguson, MO (Jan. 23-26); Pittsburgh, PA (Jan. 31); Ottawa, Toronto, and Scarborough, Canada (Feb. 2-8); Newark, NJ (Feb. 10-11); Nashville, TN (Feb. 16); Anaheim, CA (Feb. 25); San Jose, CA (Feb 29); Seattle, WA (Mar. 7-10); Tempe and Glendale, AZ (Mar. 15-16); and Dallas, TX (Mar. 22). Check out the NHL website for complete details of the tour.

~ baseballrebecca




Happy Birthday, Jackie!

img_1626Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson was born. To mark the occasion, MLB announced on Monday that it will celebrate Robinson throughout the 2019 season. In fact, not only MLB, but the entire nation will honor Robinson, demonstrating the lasting impact on and importance to society of Robinson’s legacy.

This morning, representatives from MLB and the Jackie Robinson Foundation will join Rachel and Sharon Robinson (Jackie’s wife and daughter) in visits to three New York City schools: Jackie Robinson School, P.S. 15, in Queens; Jackie Robinson School, P.S. 375, in Brooklyn; and P.S. 42 in Manhattan. Later in the morning, the Brooklyn Borough president will award the “Key to Brooklyn” to Jackie posthumously. At noon, Sharon Robinson will participate in Facebook Live Event with Scholastic, Inc., regarding the benefits of the “Breaking Barriers: In Sport, In Life” program. In the evening, Baseball Commission Rob Manfred will join Rachel and Sharon Jackson and the president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation at the opening of the “In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson” exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight in California, the South Pasadena Public Library is hosting a free screening of “The Jackie Robinson Story,” the 1950 film starring Jackie Robinson as himself. Also tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers are hosting 300 children at Dodger Stadium for a variety of activities, including singing of Happy Birthday at the Jackie Robinson statute. At 6 p.m. in Tallahassee, FL, Jackie Robinson will be honored with an event titled, “From Victim to Victor: Jackie Robinson at 100, The Cultural Impact of Jackie Robinson’s Groundbreaking Career.” The event will be held at the Planetarium at the Challenger Learning Center. Panelists will discuss the impact of Robinson on American history and will feature Robinson’s cousin, Dr. Linda Walden.

Image result for Jackie Robinson FoundationOther events will be held throughout the year by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and others:

  • February 1-15UCLA’s he Powell Library will have an exhibit on Robinson’s time on campus, titled, “Jackie Robinson and UCLA, 1939–1941”
  • February 5UCLA will host a panel discussion on athletes, social justice and activism, and the legacy of Jackie Robinson and then the Jackie Robinson 100th Birthday Celebration Concert will take place in UCLA’s Royce Hall. Featured performers will include Bernie Williams, Arturo Sandoval, and Dave Koz.
  • February 6 – UCLA Athletics will honor Robinson and his family during the men’s basketball game at 6 p.m. The first 10,000 attendees will receive a Jackie Robinson poster.
  • February 7 A Play Ball event will be held at the Kansas City Royals MLB Urban Youth Academy. Similar Play Ball events will be held in Montreal in March and Pasadena in September.
  • February 10 and February 17the play, “Jackie & Me” will be shown at the Main Street Theater in Houston, TX
  • February 23 – The Yogi Berra Museum will have an event titled, “Yogi & Jackie: A Friendship for the Ages” from 3 to 5 p.m.
  • February 25 – The Negro Leagues Museum will host a lecture by Dr. Arnold Rampersad on “Jacke Robinson, American”
  • March 20 – the Museum of the City of New York will hold an event titled, “Athletes to Activists: A Conversation with Howard Bryant of ESPN and Olympian/Activist John Carlos”
  • April 11Jackie Robinson Museum Program Preview in New York
  • April 14Jackie Robinson Museum Program Preview in Los Angeles
  • April 15Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball; on-field tributes will be held at MLB ballparks throughout the country
  • May 14 the Museum of the City of New York will host a panel discussion on “Jackie Robinson: The Personal and the Political”
  • July 4 -August 11 – Jackie Robinson Museum Traveling Exhibit National Tour; the tour includes stops include stops in Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Miami
  • December 2019 – Opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum at 75 Varick Street in New York

Enjoy the celebration and honor Jackie’s legacy!

~ baseballrebecca