Below is a reprinting of one of the first baseball blog posts I ever wrote, two years ago today, under the slightly more cynical headline “Doritos Jackie Robinson Day Presented by Cialis.” Not many things hold up after two years in the baseball-blogging world, but Bud Selig and MLB are again cheapening Jackie’s memory by forcing every player in baseball to “honor” him by wearing his number, so it seems to me it’s worth hauling this out again.
April 15 should be a national holiday. And I don’t mean, like, “Tax Day” or something.
I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration at all to say that April 15, 1947 was one of the greatest and most important days in American history. People love to talk about events within a sport “transcending” the sport itself, and I think that’s usually silly. But if that’s ever happened at all, it happened on April 15, 1947. 62 years ago today, our national pastime actually became our National Pastime, and we as a society got a little better. Yeah, it was just one guy (really, a few; we really shouldn’t forget that Larry Doby came along 81 days later, and it’s not like it was all wine and four-locker clubhouse suites with leather recliners and personal TVs for him either), but it was one guy who was allowed to get by on his achievements rather than what he looked like, which was something. Without Robinson (and Doby) going through the hell he (they) went through, who knows where we end up, or when we finally get there? April 15 is a hugely important, uplifting day, and it needs to be celebrated.Want to know a smarmy used car salesman who both understands that and is trying to destroy it for his own inscrutable ends? This guy.
Major League Baseball has been celebrating Jackie Robinson Day for about five years now. In 2007, the sixtieth anniversary, they had a huge, very touching celebration at Dodger Stadium. Sparked by a brilliant idea of Ken Griffey Jr.’s, a number of players received special permission to wear the otherwise-retired #42 in Jackie’s honor. It was sweet.
Now? Everybody’s got to wear it. Really. Every single player and coach will be wearing #42 tonight.
Did you have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid? If so, do you remember thinking, “gosh, this sure is making me love my country and respect the sanctity of our flag!” while doing it? Or perhaps more to the point, would you suppose the teacher at the head of the class was thinking that you were thinking that? Because if Allan H. “Bud” Selig were your teacher, by golly, that’s exactly what he’d be thinking.
“I think it’s great,” the Commissioner said. “Just their understanding of history and what that man did for so many people is so important. Believe me, it makes me very happy.”
Hey, Bud? If you make somebody do something, and they do it, that doesn’t show their understanding of the history of anything, except maybe the history of what happens to people who refuse to follow orders. It feels dirty and cheap now–which is exactly what happens sooner or later to everything Bud touches. It’s about using the idealized image of Jackie as a publicity vehicle for baseball, and that’s it. And Jackie makes a great vehicle for illustrating what’s right and good about baseball…but it should be much, much more than that.
So, best to just forget that (and try not to notice the uniform numbers…you’ll just get confused). Let’s all just take a minute and remember Jackie (and Larry) in our own little way today. It’s a great, great day.