April 15 was Jackie Robinson Day.
And, if you think this post is superfluous because it is a few days late, I remind you that Major League Baseball took decades to recognize that segregated baseball was a horrible, unconscionable thing.
So, you can see that it’s just polite to let my few days of tardiness slide.
On April 15, every player on every major and minor league team in baseball wears Jackie’s number, 42. This year, which marked the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s first game in the majors, the Los Angeles Dodgers unveiled a statue honoring him.
(I was not named for Jackie Robinson, but I don’t mind if you think I was.)
Chuck Berry, one of the fathers of rock and roll, died last month and in the new issue of Rolling Stone, Mikal Gilmore writes a dark, yet beautiful, tribute.
(You oughta read it … which you can do here.)
And, in it he tells me something I did not know.
The last verse of Berry’s 1956 song Brown-Eyed Handsome Man was about Jackie Robinson.
Two, three count with nobody on
He hit a high fly into the stand
Rounding third he was headed for home
It was a brown eyed handsome man
That won the game; it was a brown eyed handsome man
(And, yes, you are correct. John Fogerty “borrowed” Berry’s verse for the opening lines of “Centerfield.”)
How could I have missed baseball in such an iconic rock and roll song?
Might have been because I know this song more for Buddy Holly’s version, and Buddy sort of mumbles, in his twangy Texas way, through the lyrics.
But, cut me a break, because here’s a 1956 version by the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash) and they aimlessly wander their way through the lyrics and never even get to the Jackie verse.
At two minutes and change each you can listen to all three versions and Prince’s Purple Rain will still run longer.
I’m sorry I’m late. But, Jackie Robinson deserves recognition on more than just one day anyway.