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Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

Honoring A Baseball Legend As golf basked in the glow of Tiger Woods’ victory on Sunday at the Masters, baseball followed Monday by commemorating the vicissitudes and successes of...

Honoring A Baseball Legend

As golf basked in the glow of Tiger Woods’ victory on Sunday at the Masters, baseball followed Monday by commemorating the vicissitudes and successes of Jackie Robinson, the first to cross the sport’s “color” line.

Blacks could not play at Augusta National when Woods, 43, was born. No black player played in the Masters until 1975. So a path through bigotry and hate was blazed by others, and one pioneer was Robinson.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in a game against the Boston Braves. Robinson died in 1972, long after the Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles and Ebbets Field existed only in fond memory.

Robinson did not enjoy the roaring crowds that followed Tiger on Sunday as he became this standard bearer for a chance to be judged on ability, not skin color. Teammates avoided him, opponents and fans showered him with racist taunts and Robinson had to have the guts, as Dodgers boss Branch Rickey told him, “not to fight back.”

On Monday, 72 years after Robinson’s first game, Major League Baseball again conducted its yearly honors of his battles and successes. All players, managers, and coaches wore Robinson’s No. 42, which was retired by the sport in 1997. The last player who wore it was New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, who left the game after the 2013 season. Home teams that were off Monday will hold their ceremonies Tuesday.

When Robinson died, after many years of fighting for racial equality, baseball still did not have a black manager. Frank Robinson, who died in February and was not related to Jackie, was hired two years later by the Cleveland Indians to knock down yet another barrier.

We’re still congratulating Tiger on his comeback and his triumph. And we’re still thankful for Jackie Robinson’s guts, grace, and skills.

As Robinson once said: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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