Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King they Changed America

“He led America by example. He reminded our people of what was right and he reminded them of what was wrong. I think it can be safely said today that Jackie Robinson made the United States a better nation.” – American League President Gene Budig

“He knew he had to do well. He knew that the future of blacks in baseball depended on it. The pressure was enormous, overwhelming, and unbearable at times. I don’t know how he held up. I know I never could have.”Duke Snider

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”  Jackie Robinson

“There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” Jackie Robinson

Today is a day that we rightfully remembered the life, message, martyrdom and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However as much as Dr. King matters, there were a long line of African American heroes who in their own way helped bring about racial equality in this country.  While many toiled in obscurity one, a baseball player named Jackie Robinson would forever alter the playing field of racial relations and how African Americans were perceived and received in the United States.  April 15th 2010 will be the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game in the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn.  Robinson is not remembered with a National holiday but then again that takes noting away from this giant of American history. When Robinson stepped onto Ebbett’s Field in April 15th 1947 it was a watershed moment and while racial discrimination and prejudice remained they would be fighting a losing battle from that time on. Dr King in life and in death would be the one who drove the stake into the heart of the evil of racism and discrimination it was Jackie Robinson who helped place that stake above the heart of this evil.

The Negro Leagues: Jackie in his Kansas City Monarch Uniform

We celebrate Dr King’s legacy today. However, without Jackie Robinson and the other African American baseball players who broke into the big leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s it is conceivable that Dr, King would never have had the opportunity not only to be heard by African Americans, but to have his message heard and taken to heart by white America.

By the time Dr. King arrived on the scene much had already been done, and much due to Robinson and the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. Robinson’s first game with the Dodgers came a full year before President Truman integrated the military and a full seven years before the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional.  It was not until 1964 that the Voters Rights act passed in Congress.  Jackie Robinson paved the way for a change in American society that has continued for 62 years since his debut at Ebbett’s Field on April 15th 1947.

Even before he stepped onto the field Jackie Robinson was a pioneer in equal rights where at UCLA he was the first student to letter in four varsity sports and in the Second World War where in an action that was a precursor to later civil rights battles the young Lieutenant Jackie Robinson was arrested and tried for not moving to the back of a bus at Fort Hood Texas.  He would be acquitted and given an honorable discharge before beginning his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League prior to Rickey signing him to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals of the International League. Although he was met with scorn my many white baseball fans and some players and had to endure the ignominy of hostility from white fans and media, having to live in separate hotels and eat at separate restaurants Robinson developed a loyal fan base in Montreal and over a million people saw him play in his year in the International League.

Jackie in his Montreal Royals Uniform outside the Dodger’s Clubhouse

When Branch Rickey talked with Robinson before the season he said: “Jackie (Robinson), we’ve got no army. There’s virtually nobody on our side. No owners, no umpires, very few newspapermen. And I’m afraid that many fans will be hostile. We’ll be in a tough position. We can win only if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer, a fine gentleman.”

John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson on opening day 1947

Jackie’s feat was a watershed moment in the history of our country.  Blacks had struggled for years against Jim Crow laws, discrimination in voting rights, and even simple human decencies such as where they could use a rest room, what hotels they could stay in or what part of the bus that they could sit.  In baseball many white fans were upset that blacks would be coming to see Robinson in stadiums that they would not have been allowed in before.  Players from other teams heckled Robinson, he received hate mail, people sent made death threats, and he was spiked and spit on.  But Jackie Robinson kept his pledge to Dodgers owner Branch Rickey not to lash out at his tormentors, as Rickey told him that he needed a man “with enough guts not to strike back.” In doing so his on field performance and poise under pressure won him the National League Rookie of the Year honor in 1947.

Jackie Stealing Home against the Yankees, the catcher is Yogi Berra

Jackie Robinson played the game with passion and even anger.  He took the advice of Hank Greenberg who as a Jew suffered continual racial epithets throughout his career “the best ways to combat slurs from the opposing dugout is to beat them on the field.” He would be honored as Rookie of the Year, was MVP, played in six World Series and six All Star Games.  He had a career .311 batting average, .409 on base percentage and a .474 Slugging percentage. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962. His teammate Pee Wee Reese would say: “Thinking about the things that happened, I don’t know any other ball player who could have done what he did. To be able to hit with everybody yelling at him. He had to block all that out, block out everything but this ball that is coming in at a hundred miles an hour. To do what he did has got to be the most tremendous thing I’ve ever seen in sports.”

Today Jackie Robinson’s feat is history, but it should not be forgotten.  He was a pioneer who made it possible for others to move forward.  He would be followed by players like Roy Campinella, Satchel Paige, Don Larson, Larry Dobie and Willie Mays.  His breakthrough had an effect not just on baseball but on society and helped make possible the later civil rights movement.  Dr. King would say of Jackie that he was “a legend and a symbol in his own time”, and that he “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”  Historian Doris Kearns Godwin noted that Jackie’s “efforts were a monumental step in the civil-rights revolution in America” and that his “accomplishments allowed black and white Americans to be more respectful and open to one another and more appreciative of everyone’s abilities.” Time Magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr “I have a dream”

We honor Dr King today and rightly so, but one can never forget those who paved the way so that we could all have the blessing of seeing Dr King’s dream come one step closer to fruition the dream that:

“one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” and that “one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Dr King would die by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis on the night of April 4th 1968 the day after finishing his final speech with these immortal remarks:

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Let us never forget Dr King nor those like Jackie Robinson who helped pave the way for Dr King.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Blowout, a Trouncing, a Massacre and an Upset the NFL Divisional Playoffs and Picks for Next Week

Well the Divisional Playoffs are behind us, I went 3 for 4 in my picks only missing the Chargers and Jets.  This patently is rather good for a member of the Church of Baseball who has no dog in the NFL fight. The only really interesting thing to me as only the Chargers and Jets game was competitive.

So let’s go through the results and look to next week.

Saints Defense Swarming (Getty Images)

In game one the Cardinals travelled to New Orleans to meet the Saints. The Saints were the clear favorite in the game despite the play of the Cardinals against the Packers last week.  I figured that the Saints would win but gave the Cardinals a chance at stealing one from the Saints.  In my heart I wanted the Cardinals to take it because I like Kurt Warner.  The game was dominated by the Saints who took advantage of Cardinals turnovers to win convincingly 45-14.  The Saints used aggressive defense to shut down the Cardinals and their offense led by the passing of Drew Brees and stellar performance of Reggie Bush put on a show against the porous Cardinal defense which in two playoff games gave up a record 90 points.  Warner was crushed by a tackle in the 2nd quarter which could factor into his decision to continue playing or retire.  The Saints take home field advantage into the NFC Championship game against Brett Farve and the Vikings this week.

Peyton Manning Leads the Colts over the Ravens (Getty Images)

In the evening game the Colts shut down the Baltimore offense and though did not have a spectacular game offensively producing only 275 yards but got the job done effectively.  Payton Manning was the offense for the Colts who rushed for only 46 yards.  The Ravens gave up 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions one of the fumbles coming on a potentially game changing interception by Ed Reed who was stripped of the ball deep in Colts territory after a 38 yard interception return.  The Ravens go home and Indianapolis breaks the “bye week jinx” to advance to the AFC Championship game which will be played in Indy against the scrappy New York Jets.

Brett Farve Tipping His Hat (AP Photo)

On Sunday Brett Farve and his Vikings faced off against the Cowboys in the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome’s final NFL game.  Farve who had never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs was spectacular leading the Vikings to a 34-3 massacre of the Cowboys making the pokes look like they didn’t belong on the same field.  Farve threw for 234 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 134.4 quarterback rating while the Cowboys managed as a team a mere 248 yards. Tony “the over-rated” Romo went back to traditional post season form going 22 of 35 for a mere 198 yards and an interception for a 66.1 quarterback rating.  He also fumbled twice and was sacked 6 times.  Cowboys fans considered a late touchdown pass by Farve at the end of the game to be not “classy” but ever since the departure of Saint Tom Landry there has been little to call classy about the Cowboys including the new Cowboys Stadium which puts the T in tacky with the scoreboard larger than Eritrea.  Despite this being a massacre which I normally would have changed channels rather than continue to watch I kept watching taking a perverse pleasure in the Cowboy’s collapse.

Rex Ryan is Making Believers (Getty Images)

The final game of the weekend featured the hot San Diego chargers against the surprising New York Jets. This was the only game that was not a blowout and certainly the only upset.  The Jets won 17-14 in the best game of the weekend.  Perhaps only Rex Ryan and the Jets believed that they could go on the road to San Diego and win this one and win they did. The Jets opportunistic and aggressive defense shut down the vaunted San Diego offense and Philip Rivers allowing only 14 points and keeping Rivers to just on passing TD with an interception.  The league leading Jets running game ground up the Chargers defense and Mark Sanchez did what was needed to win the game.  The Jets love their coach and he loves his team.  Every week that goes by one gets the feeling that Cinderella might get to go to the ball this year and her name is the “Jets.”

Next week in the AFC Championship I pick the Jets to upset the Colts in Indy and the Vikings to upset the Saints down in the Bayou.  The numbers say that the home teams which have better records and home field advantage should win but there is an sense of magic in the air as Brett Farve looks to further detract from his detractors and the Jets befuddle all of us.  I should be a great football weekend.

Peace,

Steve+

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