Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17. Jackie Robinson

It often happens that an historical figure gets so obscured by their own fame that we fail to truly see and appreciate the things that made them so famous in the first place. Jackie Robinson falls into that category. Sure, his famous number 42 is officially retired on all major league teams and everyone celebrates him every season. But man, if you really look closely at Jackie Robinson, you get acquainted with a talented, brave, complicated man the likes of which no other country than America can produce. This was a guy who put human nature aside and kept his mouth shut when confronted with the worst slights and actions ignorant racist fans and players could throw at him. It was his sheer will that enabled blacks to get back into organized baseball and it was on Jackie's broad shoulders that the cause for civil rights was brought forward by leaps and bounds. I can't think of anyone that had more of a direct impact on civil rights than this man. In the course of maybe 3 years he brought blacks into American homes that were once kept negligent of them. In a precious few short years it became alright for a white boy to have as his sports idol a black man and for once a black boy growing up in America could look upon Jackie Robinson and know that with the right amount of talent and drive he too could become a major league ballplayer. Or anything else for that matter. America was taught that people of all color could sit together in one place without rioting and a person of color is just as talented as a white man. In today's day and age it is hard to relate to the way people thought back then. Jackie had to overcome things like his manager in Montreal saying that he wasn't even sure a negro was a human being or opposing players in Baltimore releasing a black cat onto the field to taunt him. In those few years Jackie bore all that weight and pressure and in turn changed the mindset and outlook of both his fellow players and fans. Clay Hopper, his Montreal manager later became instrumental in bringing up and tutoring black ballplayers in the Dodger organization. Southerners like Pee Wee Reese had their eyes opened to the racism Robinson had to endure and came to his side as a friend. I don't know, I could go on forever singing the praises of this man and what he did for this country of ours and how sometime everyone should sit back and thank God we have men like Jackie Robinson. As my tribute to this giant of a man, I give you Jackie Robinson in his first season of organized baseball playing for the Montreal Royals of the International League.

Signed by Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson spent 1946 with the Dodgers’ AAA minor league team, the Montreal Royals and on April 18, 1946 in Jersey City, N.J. Jackie Robinson became the first black ballplayer in the 20th century to play in organized baseball. He promptly went 4 for 5, including a three-run home run, scored four runs, drove in three, and stole two bases. Overcoming immense racial pressure, Jackie won over his teammates and fans with his natural physical ability and immense drive to win. Sparked by his play the Montreal Royals won the International League Championship and then went on to beat Louisville in the Little World Series of 1946. Through his sheer determination Jackie Robinson paved the way for the desegregation of the Major Leagues.