Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jackie Robinson, the great American experiment Baseball Players

Jackie Robinson, the great American experiment

By Kevin Dayhoff April 15, 2009

Folks have been asking where they may find my column on “Jackie Robinson, the great American experiment.”

The column appeared in both the Westminster Eagle and the Carroll Eagle: Thoughts turn to baseball and Jackie Robinson Published April 17, 2009 by Carroll Eagle, Westminster Eagle and Dayhoff: Recalling Jackie Robinson, the great American experiment Published April 15, 2009 by Westminster Eagle

Pasted below is the column as it filed…

My thoughts today turn to one of my very few sports heroes – Jackie Robinson. For it was today, April 15, in 1947, that Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier that had begun in the 1880s.

Wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform with the number 42, Robinson, to paraphrase sports writer William McNeil, made his debut in front of 26,623 baseball fans at the old Ebbets Field. Approximately 14,000 of the spectators in the stands were African-Americans.

The Dodgers won 5-3; however, the real winner that day was all of us.

It was about time. As Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich wrote on March 28, 1997: “Four hundred fifty-five years after Columbus discovered America, white America discovered that blacks could play major league baseball. The first definitive clue was offered by the fifth child of a Cairo, Ga., sharecropper who was selected for the daring racial experiment.”

A brief account by the Library of Congress reveals “Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey signed a contract with Robinson to play for the team on October 23, 1945. Robinson then spent a year on a minor league team to sharpen his skills.

“Rickey, who called the move baseball's ‘great experiment,’ chose Robinson because of his excellent athletic record and strength of character. The first player to ‘cross the color line’ would have to be able to withstand intense public scrutiny and to avoid confrontation even when met with insults and hostility.”

As an aside, Richey also deserves a special place in history for having the character and insight to make it all happen. According to Povich, breaking the color barrier “had become a cause. Rickey was a former player and later a team president with high morals and a religious bent.”

It is interesting to note that Richey’s strength of conviction caused him, in earlier years when he played the game as an American League catcher, to “steadfastly” refuse to play baseball on Sundays, according to Povich.

Richey’s baseball scouts found Robinson playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the “Negro baseball leagues” in 1945.

Povich writes that Richey “warned Robinson of the insults and the racial slurs he would hear from both players and fans in every city in the league. ‘I want a player with guts — the guts not to fight back, to turn the other cheek,’ Rickey told Robinson…”

“Rickey's bargain was for Robinson to hold his temper for two years. After that he was his own man, free to combat prejudice any way he saw fit.”

Robinson, by all accounts, endured a great deal of horrific abuse. However, according to the Library of Congress account, “Not only was Robinson able to quell opposition to his presence on the field, but he quickly won the respect and enthusiasm of the fans.”

That same account says that Robinson “retired from baseball after the 1956 season with a lifetime batting average of .311 and the distinction of having stolen home an incredible 19 times. A legend even in his day, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.”

I should note that Robinson is the focal point of one of my three favorite baseball trivia stories – two of the stories happened in April and involve the Dodgers, but do have anything to do with a baseball. The third involves a potato…

The first favorite baseball moment also took place on April 25, 1976. It was that day that outfielder Rick Monday of the Chicago Cubs dashed between two men in the Dodger Stadium outfield in Los Angeles and grabbed away an American flag that protesters were about to burn.

Jackie Robinson
Jackie robinson14
baseball tout
jackie robinson
jackie robinson
jackie robinson legends composite photofile posters
jackie robinsonkauffman1
jackie robinson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Total Pageviews

Popular Posts