Saturday, August 23, 2014
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As this year marks the 60th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the modern day color barrier on, Major League Baseball will celebrate this achievement at Dodger Stadium Sunday night as part of “Jackie Robinson Day” around the country.

On that day, all of the Dodger players will wear Jackie Robinson’s number (#42), as well as players around the league such as Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who also wore the number ten years ago for the 50th anniversary celebration.

Without question, this moment was one of the most important events in 20th Century American history but one can only look at baseball now and evaluate where sports and society have gone in the last six decades.

For his first two seasons, Robinson silently faced the racist taunts and insults of fans and opposing players. He was a symbol of quiet resistance until he got the green light to fight back after his second season.

Some say that the athletes of today should learn from this and not respond to hateful words or insults that fans say but remember, he and his peers went through that so today’s Black athlete would have an easier road and not travel down that same path.

In 1975, three years after Robinson’s death, the Black presence reached its peak as they made up 27 percent of baseball rosters. Also that year, baseball witnessed its first Black manager as the Cleveland Indians hired future Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson as player-manager.

As of Opening Day this year, that number is down to only 9.1 percent (68 players out of 750). Currently, the Dodgers have three Black players – Juan Pierre, Marlon Anderson, and Matt Kemp – on their Opening Day roster and the Angels have four –Garret Anderson, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins and Darren Oliver.

Current National League MVP Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies) and All-Star pitcher Dontrelle Willis (Florida Marlins) are two examples of Black players carrying on tradition but there is more that can be done to ensure that it will pass on to future generations of Black kids.

Robinson was not only concerned with Black representation on the field but he also was an outspoken supporter of seeing more Blacks in managerial and front office positions. In his final public appearance, at the 1972 World Series, he stated his desire of one day seeing a Black manager in a baseball.

Today there are only two current managers – Ron Washington (Texas Rangers) and Willie Randolph (New York Mets) – and one general manager in Ken Williams (Chicago White Sox). Also, Jimmie Lee Solomon, the executive vice-president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, is currently the highest-ranking minority in the front office.

Individually, these are worth celebrating but this is the area that needs to be addressed more in baseball. It is one thing to excel on the field of play but since Blacks have proven they can excel with their knowledge of the game, more must be done to bring in Black minds that can help in running a team and making executive decisions.

Something overlooked in Robinson’s early life was that he was a four-sport star while in high school and college. In addition to baseball, he excelled in basketball, football and track and did not have to choose one sport early on like kids do nowadays.

Since the 1994 baseball strike, Black kids have become more driven towards basketball and football. This can be attributed to several factors but there is no doubt that their attention is no longer on the sport of their ancestors. Even at historically Black colleges and universities, the majority of baseball players are either White or Latino.

Despite all this, Robinson would still celebrate the social progress that Blacks have made in sports as a whole. Instead of playing in separate leagues, athletes can play in the major leagues together regardless of race or ethnicity. He would also celebrate the wide variety of options available to the Black youth of today in all sports

As the baseball community and America come together to once again recognize the contributions of one of its bravest pioneers, let us congratulate the social progress baseball has accomplished and anticipate what baseball can do in the future. That is a true cause worth celebrating on Sunday.

As this year marks the 60th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the modern day color barrier on, Major League Baseball will celebrate this achievement at Dodger Stadium Sunday night as part of “Jackie Robinson Day” around the country.

On that day, all of the Dodger players will wear Jackie Robinson’s number (#42), as well as players around the league such as Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who also wore the number ten years ago for the 50th anniversary celebration.

Without question, this moment was one of the most important events in 20th Century American history but one can only look at baseball now and evaluate where sports and society have gone in the last six decades.

For his first two seasons, Robinson silently faced the racist taunts and insults of fans and opposing players. He was a symbol of quiet resistance until he got the green light to fight back after his second season.

Some say that the athletes of today should learn from this and not respond to hateful words or insults that fans say but remember, he and his peers went through that so today’s Black athlete would have an easier road and not travel down that same path.

In 1975, three years after Robinson’s death, the Black presence reached its peak as they made up 27 percent of baseball rosters. Also that year, baseball witnessed its first Black manager as the Cleveland Indians hired future Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson as player-manager.

As of Opening Day this year, that number is down to only 9.1 percent (68 players out of 750). Currently, the Dodgers have three Black players – Juan Pierre, Marlon Anderson, and Matt Kemp – on their Opening Day roster and the Angels have four –Garret Anderson, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins and Darren Oliver.

Current National League MVP Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies) and All-Star pitcher Dontrelle Willis (Florida Marlins) are two examples of Black players carrying on tradition but there is more that can be done to ensure that it will pass on to future generations of Black kids.

Robinson was not only concerned with Black representation on the field but he also was an outspoken supporter of seeing more Blacks in managerial and front office positions. In his final public appearance, at the 1972 World Series, he stated his desire of one day seeing a Black manager in a baseball.

Today there are only two current managers – Ron Washington (Texas Rangers) and Willie Randolph (New York Mets) – and one general manager in Ken Williams (Chicago White Sox). Also, Jimmie Lee Solomon, the executive vice-president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, is currently the highest-ranking minority in the front office.

Individually, these are worth celebrating but this is the area that needs to be addressed more in baseball. It is one thing to excel on the field of play but since Blacks have proven they can excel with their knowledge of the game, more must be done to bring in Black minds that can help in running a team and making executive decisions.

Something overlooked in Robinson’s early life was that he was a four-sport star while in high school and college. In addition to baseball, he excelled in basketball, football and track and did not have to choose one sport early on like kids do nowadays.

Since the 1994 baseball strike, Black kids have become more driven towards basketball and football. This can be attributed to several factors but there is no doubt that their attention is no longer on the sport of their ancestors. Even at historically Black colleges and universities, the majority of baseball players are either White or Latino.

Despite all this, Robinson would still celebrate the social progress that Blacks have made in sports as a whole. Instead of playing in separate leagues, athletes can play in the major leagues together regardless of race or ethnicity. He would also celebrate the wide variety of options available to the Black youth of today in all sports

As the baseball community and America come together to once again recognize the contributions of one of its bravest pioneers, let us congratulate the social progress baseball has accomplished and anticipate what baseball can do in the future. That is a true cause worth celebrating on Sunday.

Category: Baseball


 

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