Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Here's To You Mr. Robinson

On this date, April 10, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player to sign a major league contract.

Like the good businessman he turned out to be, Robinson signed a one-year contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dodger's general manager Branch Rickey personally recruited Robinson from the Negro Leagues to play with his ballclub. Robinson left baseball early, after 10 years of service to pursue other endeavors. He became the Vice President for Chock Full o' Nuts and then tried his hand in politics.

On April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Robinson's #42 would be retired throughout baseball and would never again be issued to on-field personnel. (players currently wearing the number were grandfathered in and allowed to wear the number until retirement)

This year, to mark Robinson's 60th Anniversary, Major League Baseball will honor Robinson once again by allowing players to wear his retired #42 jersey. The idea apparently came as a result of a phone call that Reds' right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. made to baseball commissioner Bud Selig, requesting permission to wear it on the anniversary.

Each of the 15 games throughout Major League Baseball on April 15th will feature festivities to honor Mr. Robinson. The national celebration of Jackie Robinson Day will take place at Dodger Stadium with many VIPs, an on-field ceremony before the game Among those participating in the festivities will be Rachel Robinson, Jackie's wife and founder of The Jackie Robinson Foundation; their daughter, author Sharon Robinson; several of Jackie's former teammates; baseball executives and civic and industry leaders; Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars; and winners of the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. (info. courtesy of http://www.mlb.com/)

In his rookie season of 1947, Robinson won Rookie of the Year. He as the league's Most Valuable Player in 1949, and led the Dodgers to 6 pennants in his 10 seasons. For more information visit the Baseball Almanac for all of Jackie Robinson's Career Stats.

More than a great ball player, Robinson personifies courage, determination and perseverance. He, like so many black ball players after him had to endure a lot of hardship to play the game they loved. I applaud Jackie Robinson not only for his athletic prowess, but for his courage to be the first to step foot on a major league ball field. He could have said no, and left the name calling and death threats to someone else. But he didn't.

Like Robinson, I've all the respect in the world for Hank Aaron as well. He too received death threats and threats to his family if he dared to break the great Babe Ruth's home run record. Well, he dared. And he succeeded.

American history is perseverance. American history is courage. American history is baseball. American history is Jackie Robinson.


For historians, researchers, baseball fans and curious minds, check out ABNER, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Online Library Catalog...

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