Forgive me all you non-sport fans out there, but I cannot pass up the importance of a special day coming up this week on the sporting calendar. And actually, the more I think about it, the importance of this day, April 15th, and this milestone, is about so much more than sports. So actually whether you are a sports fan or not, this post is about something that has impacted your life as well, no matter what age you are, where you live, or what color your skin is.
This is home opening week at Dodger Stadium, the home of my Los Angeles Dodgers. But that is not what’s significant, at least not for most of you. This Sunday, the entire team, along with many other players around baseball, will pay tribute to one very special man who this week some sixty years ago changed not only the face of baseball and all sports forever, but who also changed the face of what America accepted as possible. For this game, every single member of the Dodgers, the team that had the guts and the sense to hire Jackie, will wear a jersey with the number 42, the number worn by the great Jackie Robinson, the first black person to break the color barrier in the major leagues, and the first person to prove that all people deserve a chance to prove themselves.
If you have never read anything about Jackie Robinson, do yourself a favor and find an article or a book on this true gentleman. Jackie Robinson was not only a great athlete, he was a great American and human being and his story is an inspiration for us all. It is debatable whether Jackie was the best ever at what he did on the major league baseball field. It is even arguable whether he was the best of the black baseball players of his era since so many others were not allowed to play in the majors, being relegated to the old Negro League. But what is undeniable about the man, and why I can’t help but hold him up so high, is that he hit those pitches, caught those line drives, ran those bases, with the weight of an entire ethnic group on his shoulders, and the eyes and often-times mental daggers of many in the white community, staring him down at the same time. And through it all, Jackie Robinson was pure class and always a gentleman. If you, no matter your gender or ethnicity, do not realize that when Jackie took the field he made life better for all of us, then you don’t really understand our society at all.
So today I, like the Dodgers later this week, salute Jackie Robinson. And I have even greater respect for my favorite baseball team for having the class to pay such a tribute to him this week. Go Blue!