Thank You, Jackie Robinson

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction number #LC-L9-54-3566-O

Each year, on April 15, major league baseball commemorates Jackie Robinson’s debut in the majors – the day that baseball was, finally, integrated.

Today, every major league player in every major league game will wear Jackie’s number, 42.

(This will make things confusing for your scorecard, I know, but remember, this is an important day, so just roll with it.)

Everyone knows that Jackie was a Brooklyn Dodger.

You might already know these 10 other things, too. But, just in case, here’s some Robinsonian facts from the nooks and crannies of trivia …

1) Jackie’s middle name is Roosevelt, in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt.

2) Jackie’s older brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson was a star track and field athlete.

Mack Robinson won the silver medal in the 200 meter race in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, finishing 0.4 seconds behind Jesse Owens.

3) Jackie excelled in many sports, including track and field. He was the NCAA champion in the long jump in 1940 and it’s thought he would have been a strong contender for a gold medal had the 1940 Olympics not been cancelled due to War World II.

via ourweekly.com

4) Jackie and his wife Rachel always fondly recalled his minor league playing days in Montreal and how integrated and welcoming the community was to them.

Rachel once said: “When I hear of bad things that are happening in other places – where people are fighting or being violent and are trying to exclude African-Americans – I think back to the days in Montreal. It was almost blissful.”

A 2013 article in Canada’s Globe & Mail has more on the Robinson’s days in Montreal here.

5) While Ebbets Field could hold more than 32,000 fans, only some 26,000 showed up for Robinson’s Dodgers debut versus the Boston Braves on Opening Day, April 15, 1947.

Reasons cited for the less-than-capacity crowd included – 1) white fans boycotted the game (14,000 of the 26,000 at the game that day were black), 2) fans assumed the game had already sold out so didn’t bother to even try to go, 3) there was no indication that Robinson would actually play in the game, and 4) a small pox outbreak in the city had frightened New Yorkers.

Your guess is as good as mine, but there’s probably a lot of truth to that first reason. (And, maybe a little to that last one, too.)

6) Robinson started at first base that day and went 0-for-3 at the plate. Dodgers radio announcer Red Barber described Robinson to radio listeners as “very definitely brunette.”

The Dodgers defeated the Braves, 5-3.

7) Robinson’s first hit came in his next game against the Braves on a cold and rainy April 17. It was a bunt down the third base line.

8) After his playing days, Robinson continued to be a prominent civil rights leader and became the first African-American to become a Vice President of a major corporation when he was named VP at Chock full o’Nuts Coffee Company.

9) The Jackie Robinson Museum is set to open on the corner of Canal and Varick Streets in lower Manhattan in 2019.

 

10) Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and their children Sharon and David, will be at CitiField today for the Mets versus Brewers game.

Jackie Robinson changed baseball. He changed sports. He changed America.

Jackie Robinson is why baseball is never just a game. It’s a reflection of our nation and who we are. And, sometimes, it’s a doorway to things that are far more important than just nine innings.

Thank you, Jackie.

 

 

16 thoughts on “Thank You, Jackie Robinson

  1. Oops! It was an honorary jersey made for the coaches, but because my kid is bigger than the coaches actually, they handed this one over to him. He said to me, “Is this even LEGAL??” I was proud to know he understood how important it was to respect Jackie Robinson and what his number represented. We were snowed out of 4 games this weekend. I wish I was making that up.

    • My ringer wears #42 … that’s awesome! And, extra credit for his recognizing why 42 is a special deal. (They still wear 42 in college games, too.)

      Wishing you some snow-melting weather. This weekend’s games at Virginia were the first games this season where I didn’t have to layer up with long underwear, extra socks, multiple sweaters, and hand-warmers. Finally!

      • Thanks for the warm wishes, but I think the season opener is going to be snowed out tomorrow. I have worn my winter parka into late June here, and I don’t anticipate this season being any different! As it turned out, Eli was so self-conscious about it, he asked for a different number when they re-configured jersey #s for this season. His good friend already wore #23, #16, his second choice, was already taken, so he went with #10. He was all, “Mom, NOBODY wears 42, unless it’s Jackie Robinson day, I can’t.” Fortunately, his coaches were cool and went the extra step to order another jersey for him. Baseball people are good people, all right!

        • Eli was my awesome ringer before … and now he is awesomer. (Not a word; should be a word.) To set #42 aside out of respect is so beautiful. (You can tell him that plenty of college players wear #42 and I’ve always wondered if they do it out of respect for Jackie Robinson or ignorance of what Jackie Robinson and 42 stands for.) Eli is now both my ringer … and my hero! I hope it stops snowing soon so he can get on the field … #10 is worn by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles … one of the great current-day civil rights leaders in the game. He always steps up when there are issues of discrimination or racism. He is one of baseball’s most eloquent and outspoken leaders on these issues when other players are content to just stay silent. So, good choice!

  2. Sometimes I get down, a little, when I realize what a cut throat business Baseball actually is, off the field. The latest revelations about payment of minor league players (heard on NPR, just yesterday), make it even harder to maintain my belief that, somehow, Baseball is above “all that”.
    But then, something like this comes along, and some of that faith is restored. MLB didn’t have to do this. A lesser gesture would have been enough, for most of us, but they did it, and it’s beautiful. The sight of that locker with all the identical jerseys made me a little teary.
    For that, and everything else you do, Bloggess, thanks.

    • Thanks, John. Ahhh … it is a business and a cut-throat one. Branch Rickey was doing the right thing by bringing up Jackie Robinson, but he was, ultimately, concerned just as much with his business as with doing the right thing. Bringing up Jackie meant breaking into the Negro Leagues filled with some of the best players in the game. Better players means more fans means more $$. Also, I can’t forget that while Jackie was integrating the game on April 15 1947 … the fans that day at Ebbets Field were still segregated. But, still … there is much to love about this game, regardless of its rough edges. I’m an optimist at heart!

  3. On the Mets broadcast today they were talking about Robinson’s significance to the civil rights movement. They showed a quote from Martin Luther King describing Robinson as “a sitter in before there were sit ins.” (Then #42 hit a walk off.)

  4. Pingback: Thank You, Jackie Robinson — The Baseball Bloggess – TEA Initiatives

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