“It Is Something That Seems Endless.”

“This thing called segregation here is a complete and solid pattern as a way of life. We are conditioned to it and make the best of a bad situation.” ~ Rosa Parks

It is synchronicity, I guess, that allowed me to discover this week the Library of Congress’s digitized online collection of the papers and photos of Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer. (It was all because of pancakes, and I’ll get to that soon enough.)

(You can find the Library of Congress collection here. )

Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man in 1955, which led to the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott which led to the civil rights era which led to the end of segregation … eventually.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Parks being fingerprinted by Montgomery police during the bus boycott

Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Which shows you how important, and yet how unfinished, Robinson’s achievement was.

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#42

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” ~ Jackie Robinson

On Tuesday, April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played in a game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In that moment, he integrated major league ball. Baseball changed. America changed. And, the civil rights movement was moved profoundly forward.

Today, major league baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson – and the impact he had on the game of baseball and on the battle for civil rights. Major league baseball has retired Jackie’s number 42, but, in tonight’s games*, in honor of Jackie, every major league player will wear #42.

Robinson was clear in his autobiography I Never Had It Made that civil rights meant far more than just allowing a black man to play in what was until then a white man’s game. Civil rights in America, he explained, is not won until every person – black or white, male or female, rich or poor – is afforded the same rights and the same fair shake in our society. We’re not there yet.

There’s a “superstar” ballplayer (who goes nameless here) who likes to Tweet a lot and tell reporters that we fans have no idea – no idea – how hard a ballplayer’s job is … how hard it is to live his life and do what he does. I agree. I have no idea how he does what he does out on the field. I know it takes enormous work and dedication to make it to the highest level of sport; to make it look so easy when I know it is not.

But, he has no idea – no idea – what Jackie Robinson endured on the field and off. It was not an easy life for Robinson and he could have walked away. He did not. And, for that, ballplayers and fans alike – all Americans – owe him an enormous debt.

Robinson started and played first base that night. That game, he later said, was a “miserable” one for him. He went 0-for-3, reached base on an error, and scored a run. But, the Dodgers won, defeating the Boston Braves 5-3.

And, America changed forever.

Thank you, Jackie.

* Tonight’s Baltimore Orioles – Tampa Bay Rays game has been postponed due to rain. They’ll wear their #42 jerseys tomorrow.

 

 

#3: From Daytona Beach to Dodgertown

If you think about it, 67 years is not such long a time.

Sometimes it takes the post office 67 years to deliver a letter.

Sometimes it takes 67 years to become an Eagle Scout.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both born in 1946 – 67 years ago.

So were pitchers Bill (Spaceman) Lee and Catfish Hunter. (And, why aren’t player nicknames as good as those anymore?)  So were Bobby Bonds and Rollie Fingers.

And, Reggie Jackson.

It was 67 not-so-long years ago that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing a racially integrated, professional game.

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

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

But, no, not as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  (You knew there had to be a twist, didn’t you?)

He did it during Spring Training, on Sunday, March 17, 1946, at City Island Park in Daytona Beach, Florida as a member of the Class AAA Montreal Royals, a Dodgers farm-team.

I don’t think a lot of my friends understand my passion for baseball (hi there, friends!)

One of the reasons is that baseball so perfectly seems to mirror the tenor of the times. It’s an opening to history and reflects us as a society and as a culture.

( I also love three-run homers, double steals, and spectacular defensive plays.  But, I digress …)

Many historians believe that the modern era of civil rights began with the integration of major league baseball.

And, so we come to Jackie Robinson and Daytona Beach, the only place in 1946 Florida that would allow a colored man to play in a white man’s game on a white man’s field.

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