If ever a sport was drenched in tradition, it’s baseball. And as the 2010 season gets into full-swing, it’s time to once again honor one of the most renowned players of all-time: Jackie Robinson. He was number 42 for the old Brooklyn Dodgers (before they moved out West, and started beating my Giants with alarming regularity).
It was 53 years ago this week that Jackie broke the baseball color line, becoming the modern era’s first African-American Major League Baseball player. Before that, black players were relegated to the Negro leagues. Needless to say, he took a lot of flack along the way from fans, the media and even fellow players. Although most players stuck by his side, and fellow Dodger Pee Wee Reese supported him with the now-famous quote, “You can hate man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”
But more than simply a beacon for civil rights, Jackie Robinson was a true baller. He was a six time All-Star with a .311 lifetime batting average, and a first ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackie Robinson unfortunately died at just 53 (from complications of heart disease and diabetes). So he never got to see a black Manager in baseball, or some of the other gains he worked so hard to achieve for others. But he paved the way for some great ones, and that’s all you can ask from any ball player.