Honoring Jackie

Today belongs to one of the greatest Bruin of all time. I am not going to elaborate more on how we as Bruins (and for someone like yours truly who is also among thousands of Bruins who happen to be Dodger fans) feel about number 42. So I thought it would be cool to share with you the thoughts of some sports fans and reporters across the country on this historic day.

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't know about that gesture to wear number 42 until bruinbabe pointed it out in one of our thread two days ago. So I looked into a little more and was amazed to find about a grass roots movement from players, which led to this noble gesture. From the NY Times:

Sixty years after Jackie Robinson shook the baseball establishment and broke the sport's color barrier, an unforeseen grassroots movement by today's players has suddenly shaped the way Major League Baseball will commemorate the anniversary. More than 200 players will wear Robinson's No. 42 retired by baseball 10 years ago in ballparks across the country on Sunday, the anniversary of Robinson's first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

While the tribute has received baseball's approval, it grew spontaneously from a request by the Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr., who asked Commissioner Bud Selig earlier this month if he could wear the number on April 15. What has evolved since is surprisingly organic for a group of famous, feted athletes with multimillion-dollar contracts.

As word of Griffey's gesture spread, small groups of players -- among them stars like Barry Bonds, Dontrelle Willis and Gary Sheffield -- decided also to wear 42 that day. Soon, there was a representative from every team. The Los Angeles Dodgers then decided to have their entire roster wear 42.

Now, there are six major league teams that plan to have everyone in uniform wearing No. 42 -- players, coaches, manager and bat boys. Those teams are the Dodgers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Houston Astros.

And the number of jerseys having a new 42 sewn onto the back remains fluid, but seems to be increasing by the day.
And this movement would have extended beyond the jurisdiction of MLB if not for a boneheaded decision by the NBA. Whatever David Stern.

Apparently this organic and spontaneous gesture did lead to certain critics commenting on whether these players appreciate what it means and whether it will address the disconcerting issue of decreasing number of African Americans playing in MLB. Ian Casselberry, our wonderful SBN colleague writing on the Detroit Tigers blog - Bless You Boys - penned these thoughts in response to those two themes:
In anticipation of today's celebration, there's been quite a bit of chatter regarding a couple of different topics: 1) whether or not those wearing the number appreciate what the gesture really means, and 2) the decreasing number of African-American players in Major League Baseball.

The first point seems a little bit snobby to me.  Maybe I'm being naive, but I find it hard to believe that some players are only wearing #42 to "be cool."  But even if that's why they're doing it, on some level, those guys have to know why it would be cool, right?  The second point is a big concern, and I'm glad to hear players like Sheffield, Dontrelle Willis, Torii Hunter, C.C. Sabathia, and Jimmy Rollins speak out on the matter.  I can only hope they're sincere about wanting to do something about it, but I also wonder just how much they can truly do.  That's a discussion I'd really like to have here, but such a complex subject probably deserves its own blog entry.

Today is meant for acknowledging one of baseball's pioneers.  It's gratifying to see so many players show their appreciation for Jackie Robinson and what he's meant to the sport.  And if even one person turns to someone next to them, whether it's at the ballpark or while watching on TV, and asks why so many guys are wearing #42, then it's most certainly a worthy gesture.
Make sure to read Ian's entire post in which he also mentions how 17 years ago he wrote a term paper on the Negro Leagues, and read about all the abuse Jackie endured from spectators, other players, and in some cases his team-mates. Ian's paper made me think of a little essay my wife shared from a little girl in the second grade class she teaches. Mrs. N gave out an assignment to her second graders to look up (a second grade "research project" so to speak) some info. and then write a para. or two on a famous person they admire. One girl decided to write a paper on "Mr. Jackie Robinson." She wanted to write about him so she could find a little more about the baseball player her Daddy talks about all the time. Great stuff. Yes, I made a request to Mrs. N to see if I could get a copy of that essay and may be share it with everyone here on BN. No luck yet.

Anyways, Ian is not all the SBN blogger taking note of 42. Cub blogger Al from Bleed Cubbie Blue (one of our flagship baseball flogs) shared these thoughts:
The Cubs will have six men wearing the number -- players Derrek Lee, Cliff Floyd, Jacque Jones and Daryle Ward, and coaches Gerald Perry and Lester Strode. It's been written elsewhere that doing this somehow "cheapens" Robinson's memory.

Quite the contrary, I think. What Robinson did was more than courageous, and I don't think that any of us, sixty years on, can truly know what he went through and what it meant to the African-Americans in this country at the time, or indeed, what it meant to our entire society. In many ways Robinson was at the forefront of the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. To this day, the 46,572 who paid to see Jackie play his first game at Wrigley Field on May 18, 1947 is the largest paid crowd in the history of the ballpark (note to sticklers: I am well aware that the 51,556 on June 27, 1930 is the largest total crowd in Wrigley Field history, but that included many freebies -- and there's no way the Chicago Fire Department would allow that many in the park today).

Anyway, it is my opinion that this tribute to Jackie Robinson is a fitting one. In fact, it might be even more fitting if MLB would unretire #42 and allow players to wear it in tribute to Robinson on an everyday basis, instead of just remembering him on April 15. In that way, his legacy would be noted on the field of play every day.
And gondee from our Atlanta blog - Talking Chop - shared this retrospective about number 42:



If any of you are at the Chavez Ravine today and are taking some pictures on all the festivities honoring number 42, we will be very grateful if you would share it with rest of Bruins Nation.

This is a special day for the entire nation, but even more special for those of us who bleed blue and gold.

GO BRUINS.
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