“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.