I took a once a week class my sophomore year of college which focused upon, among other things, race, sports and the effects on both made by Jackie Robinson. It was listed as an upper-level sociology class, I had an empty elective on my tracking sheet and a couple of my other friends planned to take the same class. Being both a baseball fan and a history major, the effects of Jack Roosevelt Robinson* upon the both the game and American society interested me greatly. The class itself was pretty simple, filled with seniors attempting to skate through the spring semester and earn those much-needed humanities credits in a manner that didn’t force them to become abstemious students late in their academic careers.
*Cosell was right. That’s the man’s name.
The result of the class was an “A” for me and a collaborative paper positing that the demographics of Brooklyn made it a particularly well-suited place for JRR to break the gentlemen’s agreement. I can’t find the paper saved within my Gmail account — alas, it may be lost to the wilds of the Catholic University webmail system — or I would have posted it here for your enjoyment.
Instead, on the anniversary of JRR’s appearance in Dodger Blue plus a day, below follow some of what others have opined about someone who I consider one of most important Americans of the twentieth century.*
Yes, I’m aware of what I just wrote. Permit me an aside. During my senior year at CUA a good friend of mine did his Capstone Seminar Thesis upon the influence of sport in modern politics and society. The visiting professor, an old, crotchety German prof thought it foolish. In fact, he castigated my buddy publically and told him the topic was a non-starter. It turns out that the prof was dead wrong — it was a great paper. Even after the presentation of the paper, Herr Prof refused to budge. I can recall using JRR as an example of sport upon society in our classroom discussions. I’m a firm believer that both the United States Army and Major League Baseball are appropriate barometers of social change. I also think that Truman wouldn’t have had the guts to integrate the armed forces if not for JRR. So sue me, but I believe it.
First of all: love him or hate him, Jesse Jackson spoke passionately and eloquently at JRR’s funeral. Just reading over the words give me chills — and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I can also promise you that it is worth the ninety-nine cents for the audio version.
I can remember listening to this song on long car rides. It appeared on a cassette of baseball music belonging to my father. It’s also from where I ripped the name of this post.
Joe Posnanski — someone who will be frequently linked and/or highlighted on these pages, I assure you — wrote two three page articles on JRR. The first post details JRR’s greatness and fierceness and speculates that it was the daunting odds themselves that drove him to such greatness. The second post goes into detail about an incident involving Sal Maglie, Al Dark, Pee Wee Reese and JRR.
Craig Calceterra linked to a list of the big-leaguer on each team to wear #42. Without looking, I can tell you it was Butch Huskey on the Mets. Drats, I was wrong. It was Big Mo. Can you name the last guy to wear it on your team?
Here’s an long-past article from TSN’s Dave Kindred on JRR. The money quote:
Another question could be asked, as well. Where the hell would America be? For the first time in the 20th century, a black man had walked into a white man’s world. One black man, alone, and he did a thing mightier than play baseball. He put his name in history books.
“You’ll find Robinson there,” broadcaster Howard Cosell said, “because of the bloodless social revolution he created.”