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Jackie Robinson Day

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I would be remiss not to point out that today, April 15, is the third annual Jackie Robinson Day. Festivities will mark the occasion, as explained at MLB.com:

Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers will host special Jackie Robinson Day celebrations prior to their games. The on-field ceremony at Shea Stadium will feature Jackie's wife and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Rachel Robinson; Bob DuPuy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball; Mets manager Willie Randolph and outfielder Cliff Floyd; and Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars and executives.

The on-field ceremony at Dodger Stadium will include Jackie's daughter, Sharon Robinson; retired Dodgers' pitcher Don Newcombe, who won the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and National League MVP awards while Jackie's teammate; Dodgers outfielder Kenny Lofton; and Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars and executives.

At Shea Stadium, Adriana Lee and Tiffany Chaparro, Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars attending Rutgers University and New York University, respectively, will participate in the first pitch ceremony while the Christ Tabernacle Youth Gospel Choir will perform the National Anthem. In addition, former members of the Tuskegee Airmen and several Negro League players will be recognized as part of the overall theme of the day and the Jackie Robinson "42" logo will be featured on the Shea Stadium playing field.

Also, MLB.com reporter Justice Hill's column on the meaning of a day in remembrance of Robinson is a worthwhile read.

If I recall, Robinson passed away in 1972, before I was born. However, everything I know of him indicates he was a better man than he was a ballplayer. Considering Robinson was a Hall of Fame ballplayer, that is probably all one needs to know about Jackie Robinson as a man.

In one sense, that's likely true. In another sense, however, we need to learn everything about Robinson that we can, which was the point of Justice Hill's column. In this sense, it is entirely fitting that MLB dedicates a holiday to Robinson in his memory.

Update [2006-4-15 15:50:57 by Basil]: BlackAthlete.net (hat-tip: Baseball Primer) provides a different and far more critical perspective on the meaning of Jackie Robinson Day:

The authoritative Sports Business Journal in its early April issue published profiles of "The 20 Most Influential People in Baseball" and they are all WHITE. That would truly make Robinson joyous if he were alive. The fact that the 20 most influential were all WHITE in 1947 when he broke into the Majors and that now 59 years later the 20 most influential people in Baseball are still all WHITE.

I do not want to delve into a long discussion on the topic, but I do think it's a pretty valid point (although seven of the figures on the list are not employed by MLB or any of its subsidiaries). I do sympathize with Bud Selig to an extent, however. If he requires more minority representation in ownership (such as the latest rounds with the Lerners over the ownership of the Nats), he exposes himelf to criticism for searching out what are interpreted by some as symbolic crumbs; on the other hand, if he does nothing of the sort, he's a do-nothing and implicitly accused by some of racism. Certainly, if the Malek team gets the Nats, a prominent member of its team, Colin Powell, still won't make any top twenty influential list. Even if Yusef Jackson's team had won the Nats ownership (and it doesn't look like it will), Jackson still wouldn't have made this top-twenty list. That's a tough standard.