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.Embed from Getty Images
(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.
Absolutely. And more of a tribute than the movie “42” presented. All this time, I thought “brown-eyed handsome man” was a stanza from “Centerfield,” of which I love Fogerty’s re-recording; they play it at the Redhawks games. Thanks for the blog.
Thanks, Jim … yes, Fogerty does his little cap tip to the song in “Centerfield.” I’m wondering if Chuck Berry was annoyed that he didn’t get a co-writing credit for that. (He probably should have now that I think about it.)
Great covers! The one with Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash was killer!!!
I know! I’m going to have to dig up some more, because I don’t know a lot about this 1956 “jam session” recording, although it was ultimately released about 20 years ago. Just hearing these musical giants hanging out and having fun with songs is amazing!
I liked Chuck Berry’s version best. Now, can you explain the stance of his statue? Is he supposed to be sliding home?
Sliding home while stealing home. The sculptor wanted an image of Jackie stealing home from his rookie season. According to a story on MLB.com, Branly Cadet, the sculptor, “thought it captured how [Jackie Robinson] lived his entire life, both symbolically and literally. Something else Cadet thought was important: the beginning of a stolen base. In that way, he could capture both Robinson’s fearlessness and the symbolism of the hard work still ahead.”
The full MLB.com story on the statue is here: http://m.mlb.com/news/article/223855634/jackie-robinson-steals-home-in-new-statue/
If you ever get a chance, read Hank Greenberg’s autobiography. He went through many of the trials and tribulations that Jackie went through, but doesn’t really get recognized for it. Both great ballplayers, pioneers, and heroes.
I often remind people who want to go back to the “Good Old Days” of baseball that they weren’t all that good. The prejudices of the day and documented hateful behavior of many players and fans toward people who were different than they were is a reminder that we as a people have both come a long way … and, sadly, we still have a long way to go.
I have to say the Negro League Baseball Museum in KC does this era justice as well as the players. It is well worth the visit and it shares space with the early jazz area of KC! Road trip anyone?! Thanks for a fun blog and the explanation of that ‘pose’ for the statue.
The Negro League Baseball Museum is one of my must-see places … I hope to get there soon!
Oh wow … I consider myself a Chuck Berry-ite and I’m ashamed to say that that verse went right over my head – not unlike a high fly, funny enough. I’m happier for knowing it! Thank you :)
It was new to me, too!
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