For someone born in my time it is just hard to fathom how segregated the country was just a few years ago. In fact 64 years ago today Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. I just have a lot of trouble believing how he was even treated. A couple of years ago I read a great book called Opening Day about how Jackie broke into the majors. It is unbelievable some of the things that he put was forced to contend with just to play baseball. We still aren’t where we need to be 64 years later, but the gap is closing. Every year Major League Baseball does a great job remembering Jackie. This year they started a site called iam42.com to have anyone who wants honor Jackie. This is just my little way of honoring what Jackie did for the country and baseball.
In 1997 Major League Baseball retired Jackie’s number 42 across the board. Nobody will every where that number again for the season after Mariano Rivera retires. I really wanted to go to the Sox game tonight to see the players honor Jackie, but the weather forced me to reconsider. Maybe next season. For now I put together some photos showing how I have seen Jackie honored across baseball.
I started taking pictures of the different ways that clubs honored Jackie in 2000.. I was at a South Bend Silverhawks game, and noticed that the right fielder was right in line with Jackie’s number and me. I took a picture of it, and named it Jackie’s shadow. I figured that baseball was changed by him, and that everyone is playing in his shadow. I loved the picture, and have yet to capture anything better involving Jackie. Here is that picture from 2000.
The picture is a bit rough, but it was taken with a point and shoot camera when they first came out. I still like the composition of the picture, and would love to try and get an updated version of this.
I don’t think that we should stop at just honoring Jackie. Plenty of players came in those first few years that baseball was integrated. They also paid a price to play the game that they loved. In 1974 as he was approaching Babe Ruth’s home run record Hank Aaron received death threats just like Jackie did in 1947. In 2007 as Barry Bonds was approaching Hank’s record he received the same threats. Baseball has a long way to go, but has come a long way. Think of all the great players that never got the chance that Jackie did. Players like Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, and Buck O’Neil just to name a few. Jackie helped pave the way for the influx of players that we see in today’s game. Early on baseball kept people from its own country from playing the game. Now the game is slowing becoming international. Those first steps were taken in 1947 when Jackie took the field for the Dodgers.
The now regular feature Classic Scorecards that would normally appear on Friday will be postponed until tomorrow. I thought that this would be a little better of a subject for today. If I could have found an accurate account of Jackie’s first game in 1947 that would have been the scorecard for sure. For some reason though that data is not available. That game along with the Bob Feller Opening Day no-hitter will have to wait until later to make the site.