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Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Robinson’

Ah, sweet relief!

I need a break from the absurdity that is our government at the moment. I need something to hang my hat on that is based on the truth that is right in front of us. No alternate facts.

Baseball.

It’s Opening Day and a little sanity returns to the world. Remember that all of the craziness and angst of the past six months happened when there was no major league baseball being played. See what happens when you take away baseball?

It’s a simple and clear cut affair with nothing but the facts running the whole shebang . Three strikes and you’re out. The ball clears the fence and it’s a home run. The team with the most runs wins at the end of nine innings.  And since they instituted video reviews of tight plays the only time that opinion comes into play on the field is with the home plate umpire’s calls of balls and strikes.

And unlike certain politicians, it’s a game of humility and instant karma. Blowhards, big mouths and boasters get brought down on a daily basis. Remember that this a game where one of the greatest batters of all time, Ty Cobb, failed to get a hit at the plate about 65% of the time. Reggie Jackson might be Mr. October and in the Hall of Fame but he has more strikeouts than hits in his career.

Ultimately, you put up or you shut up in baseball.

And it’s back today and I feel my anxiety leveling off. My rhythms are righting.

Play ball!

I thought for this Sunday’s music I’d play a little song from Sister Wynona Carr, The Ball Game from 1952. Wynona Carr was a multiple threat, singing r & b, rock and roll, and gospel. She added the Sister to her name when she was in that gospel mode. She never achieved a real breakout in any of her genres and after contracting tuberculosis in the late 1950’s she sunk into obscurity. She died in 1976 in Cleveland at the age of 53.

A sad story but she left us with some good music including this song, which was included in the recent Jackie Robinson biopic, 42. Give a listen and watch a couple of innings. It’ll do you some good.

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jackie-robinson-1956_April 15 means a couple of things to some people.  Of course, there is the unpleasant connotation of it as being Tax Day, the due date for income tax filing here in the USA.  But for the baseball fan, it is a date that marks the first day a black player took the field as a major leaguer, when a special player ran out to play first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947.   This young black man was athletically gifted, smart and tough-minded.

That player was of course Jackie Robinson.

Major League Baseball now honors him on this day every year, Jackie Robinson Day, with every player on every team putting aside their own uniform numbers to wear his number 42, which is now retired throughout baseball. Currently, only Mariano Rivera wears the number 42 on his back  and after he retires at the end of this season, no player will ever wear the 42 on their back again outside of this day each year.

Retiring a number is a sacred thing in baseball.  A player’s number has an almost mystical connection with the fans.  Growing up, everyone knew that Babe Ruth was 3,  Lou Gehrig 4, Mickey Mantle 7, Willie Mays 24, Hank Aaron 44 and on an on.  Whenever I see the number 45 all I see is my hero Bob Gibson on the mound. And everyone , even Mariano Rivera fans like myself, knows that the 42 belongs to Jackie Robinson.

There is also a new movie out that bears that number and it tells the story of Robinson’s initial turbulent year with the Dodgers.  I haven’t seen it so I can’t really comment other than to say that it is a story that every child should know.  It is a remarkable story of self restraint and strength in the face of institutionalized hatred, one that made possible the  broader changes that took place in our country in the civil rights movement in the decades after Robinson’s first day on that field in 1947.

From what I have read, the biggest complaint is that the movie doesn’t really give a full accounting of Robinson’s life. Jackie was a legendary collegiate athlete at UCLA, lettering in four sports– football, basketball, track and baseball.  He was the NCAA champion in the Long Jump and could have easily played professional football.  Of course, that was impossible because  the NFL was segregated at that time as well.

Nor does it detail his military career which is of interest mainly for Robinson being court martialed for refusing to sit in the back of an Army bus at Ft. Hood, Texas.   He was eventually acquitted of all charges by an all-white panel of officers  but it was an incident that foretold of his strength and willingness to enter the fight in taking on the segregated major leagues.

Nor does it address the health problems that led to his early death.  He suffered from diabetes and was nearly blind when he had a heart attack that ended his life at the age of 53.  It was much too early for this remarkable man’s story to end.

As I said, it’s a story that every child should know and celebrate.

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