Today would have been Jackie Robinson’s 93rd birthday.
Happy Birthday Jackie!
We are still have much to learn from you.
Columnist George Will wrote an article about Jackie:
“Like many New Yorkers leaving home for work on April 15, 1947, he wore a suit, tie and camel-hair overcoat as he headed for the subway. To his wife he said, ‘Just in case you have trouble picking me out, I’ll be wearing number 42.’
No one had trouble spotting the black man in the Dodgers’ white home uniform when he trotted out to play first base at Ebbets Field. Suddenly, only 399, not 400, major league players were white. Which is why 42 is the only number permanently retired by every team.”
Prejudice comes in many ways. We most often think of prejudice in terms of race. The story of Jackie Robinson is one of moving past prejudice, but it started with the prejudice created by what we see. Jackie told part of this story in his autobiography in 1972:
I know you’re a good ballplayer, he (Branch Rickey) barked. “What I don’t know is whether you have the guts.”
Before I could react to what he had said, he leaned forward in his chair and explained.
I wasn’t just another athlete being hired by a ball club. We were playing for big stakes. This was the reason Branch Rickey’s search had been so exhaustive. The search had spanned the globe and narrowed down to a few candidates, then finally to me. When it looked as though I might be the number-one choice, the investigation of my life, my habits, my reputation, and my character had become an intensified study.
“I’ve investigated you thoroughly, Robinson,” Mr. Rickey said. “we can’t fight our way though this, Robinson. We’ve got no army. There’s virtually nobody on our side. NO owners, no umpires, very newspapermen. And I’m afraid that many fans will be hostile. We’ll be in a tough position. We can only win if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman.”
He had me transfixed as he spoke. I could feel his sincerity, and I began to get a sense of how much this major step meant to him. Because of his nature and his passion for justice, he had to do what he was doing. He continued. The rumbling voice, the theatrical gestures, were gone he was speaking from a deep, quiet strength.
“SO there’s more than just playing.” He said. “I wish it meant only hits, runs, and errors – only the things they put in the box score. Because you know – yes, you would know, Robinson, that a baseball box score is a democratic thing. It doesn’t tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day.”
I interrupted. “But it’s the box score that really counts – that and that alone, isn’t it?”
“It’s all that ought to count,” he replied. “But it isn’t. Maybe one of these days it will be all that counts. That is one of the reasons I’ve got you here.”
(from I Never Had it Made by Jackie Robinson, 1972 page 40-41)
Jackie Robinson was an ordinary man with a talent for baseball.
He is remembered for being extraordinary not only in what the box score revealed but for the man he was before and after the game.
What if our lives we were judged by our box score?
We are better, but we still have a long way to go . . .