On Sunday, Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson, the first African American to break baseball’s color code. The main event was at Dodger Stadium. This was fitting since the Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, was the one who signed Robinson.
The celebration included speeches from Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and others. There was a Gospel Choir and Rachel Robinson received an award for all the good work she continues to do for baseball including her work with the Jackie Robinson Memorial Foundation. Frank Robinson, the first African American Manager, and Hank Aaron, the homerun king, threw out the ceremonial first pitches. All of the Dodger players and staff wore #42 in Robinson’s honor.
During the broadcast on ESPN, they interviewed several people including Rachel Robinson, Hank Aaron, Don Newcombe, Dave Winfield, and Peter Gammons. These interviews were enlightening and heart breaking. Jackie Robinson’s only friend in baseball was Branch Rickey until Pee Wee Reese put his arm around his shoulder during a game where the fans were especially brutal. Rachel Robinson had neither friend nor family in New York and the players’ wives shunned her.
Hank Aaron showed that no matter how much progress we make, we still have a long way to go. When he set out to break Babe Ruth’s homerun record, his life and the life of his wife and three children were threatened. He stated that he didn’t really even enjoy that year because of the hatred and death threats.
Now it’s 2007. It’s ironic that while we celebrate this moment in history we are trying to come to terms with the Don Imus insults. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but there is still alot of work to be done.
If you’d like to see more on the celebrations, go to the MLB Website: Sacred No. 42 on Display in Baseball