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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jacke Robinson Day 2007 - 60th anniversary of baseball and civil rights history

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Today, all of baseball takes notice of the 60th anniversary of the integration of the major leagues by the Brooklyn Dodgers' Jackie Robinson. It took great courage on the part of Brooklyn's President and General Manager Branch Rickey, who also had the financial acumen to figure that the Negro Leagues had many excellent players and whichever Major League team integrated first would have the pick of the best players at reasonable prices. But it took even greater courage by Robinson to be "the first" and have to live with all of the celebrity glare that such a distinction would provide.

It is, indeed, a much different era today than in 1947, and it seems almost unimaginable to many Americans born in the past thirty years or so that such institutionalized racial discrimination was commonplace back then, but Jackie Robinson handled his fame with class, dignity and honor, and his success at the Major League level blew open the door of opportunity for every other African-American player who followed him. If Robinson had wilted in such circumstances and failed as a player with the Dodgers, who knows what impact that would have had on the progress of integration in baseball and in society in general?

Baseball back in the '40's was a daily part of the lives of so many Americans, who were starved for entertainment and distraction in the post-war era. Radio was king, television was just about to really get off the ground and challenge radio for dominance in the living rooms of America, and Jackie Robinson was a true baseball star, not just a "token" player or novelty. His acceptance by right-minded baseball fans helped advance the cause of civil rights in America, and it is a rare occurrence indeed when a baseball player's off-field contributions are as great (or greater than) his on-field accomplishments. He became the most positive of role-models, and was cut down much too young by diabetes. His great legacy however, will live forever.

It is always proper to take notice of how far we've come as a society on days such as this.
Number 42 deserves to be number one on April 15th, now and always.

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