It's only right that the Dodgers organization -- the team that helped integrate MLB in 1947 by putting Jackie Robinson on the field to shatter baseball's ridiculous color barrier -- is participating in the ninth installation of MLB's Civil Rights Game, an annual event that began in Memphis in 2007.
Being that the Civil Rights Game will coincide with "Jackie Robinson Day," the Dodgers are the perfect team to host the festivities which include special recognitions, participants in the Baseball & Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion and special performances and ceremonies planned at Dodger Stadium this evening.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson signing his first professional contract with BK in 1945, which led to his inclusion as a full-fledged MLB diamond-miner. As has been tradition each April 15th since 2009, Major League Baseball will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing Number ’42’ during the day’s games
Last night, Howie Kendrick’s ninth inning, walk-off, shattered-bat single drove in Jimmie Rollins and Carl Crawford to defeat the Seattle Mariners 6-5. (LA’s opponent in the Civil Rights Game).
Deeper than the win, seeing three African-American ballplayers in the heart of the lineup for an MLB team is definitely a throwback sight for sore eyes. It also proves that the spirit of black baseball is alive and well despite numbers that aren’t really applicable because baseball itself has changed -- from the reliance on pitching staffs and the limited roster sports for non-pitcher, non-starters on an MLB roster, to the expanded number of teams that have entered the mega-billion dollar industry since the glory days of black participation from the 50s-80s.
We already know the spiel. I’ve written on the decline of blacks in baseball it seems, forever. On April 16th, 2013 I wrote a piece about Jackie Robinson Day called The “Jackie Robinson Day” Elephant In The Room.
As African-American’s continue to disappear from MLB rosters, Jackie Robinson Day is a bittersweet moment for black baseball fans growing up in the ‘60, ‘70s and ‘80s, when baseball was littered with black superheroes.
On one hand, it’s important that every year, on April 15 — the anniversary of Robinson's breaking the color barrier in 1947 — the baseball community spends a day reinforcing the importance of his legacy and influence on the game, by celebrating Jackie Robinson Day as a festive occasion at ball parks around the league.
On the other hand, Robinson represents a lost generation in baseball and a forgotten era. Baseball had soul back then. Dudes like Ozzie Smith put on pre-game shows and did back flips to set the game off. Cats like Oscar Gamble introduced baseball fans to the Afro. Jimmy Rollins rocked the braids heavy and won an NL MVP in ‘07.
With the release of the movie 42, interest in Robinson and the dearth of blacks in MLB has been a topic of discussion. Enter the ultimate opportunist, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who recently introduced his plans for a 17-member committee tasked with creating ways to increase the pipeline of diverse athletes to baseball. particularly African-Americans.
There’s politics in everything, even getting African-Americans to spend more coin, time and resources engaging in a game that at one point was their lifeline to high society and is a mixture in the bloodlines of their true American struggle.
But when Kendrick stroked that ball to right field and Rollins and Craw came flying around the bases, it conjured memories of a time when most baseball teams had three or four brothers playing significant roles. It was a sport so pure, embracing and filled with optimism.
“On behalf of our family and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Major League Baseball for honoring Jack’s historic achievements and his fight for equality both on and off the ball field,” said Rachel Robinson, wife of Jackie Robinson and the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “In recognizing Jack’s accomplishments, it is my hope that this commemoration inspires future generations towards impactful service within their own communities and beyond.”
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (no relation to Jackie) the only player in history to win MVP's in both the National and American Leagues will be receiving a special award. Robinson (MLB Senior Advisor and Honorary American League President) will be honored in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of him becoming MLB’s first African-American manager. Robinson managed his first game for the Cleveland Indians on April 8, 1975, almost three decades after they started letting blacks into the game.
MLB Beacon Awards will be deservedly bestowed upon Dodgers owner, entrepreneur and philanthropist Magic Johnson and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. The awards recognize individuals whose lives and actions have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement.
Past recipients of MLB Beacon Awards include: Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and also Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Jim Brown, Vera Clemente, Ruby Dee, Aretha Franklin, Morgan Freeman, Berry Gordy, Bo Jackson, John H. Johnson, Billie Jean King, Spike Lee, Congressman John Lewis, Don Newcombe, Buck O’Neil, Carlos Santana and three of the founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire.
There's also a Baseball & Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion at the Millennium Baltimore. A panel of revered guests will discuss the pivotal role baseball played in the civil rights movement and the game’s continued presence as a social institution, as well as present-day social issues affecting the country and the world. The discussion will be moderated by Harvard Law School Professor Dr. Charles Ogletree.
Some of the participants scheduled for this year’s Roundtable Discussion include:
Sharon Robinson (MLB Educational Programming Consultant, author and Vice-Chair of the Jackie Robinson Foundation). Billy Bean (MLB Ambassador for Inclusion) and Brian Woodward (Doctoral Student, Department of Urban Schooling, UCLA,) will also sit on the panel.
Robinson also plays a central role in a first-pitch ceremony that will also feature Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, Dodgers Legend Don Newcombe, Joni Campanella (daughter of catching great Roy) and scholars from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Actor and multi-platinum Grammy-nominated artist Tyrese will get in on the action too.
If you are a baseball junky, then just call ahead to the rehab center and tell them to get a bed ready because you don’t get legends like these assembled in the same place too often.
Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s greatest contribution to the sport is his blatant and uncompromising efforts to champion, promote and preserve the contributions of the African-American ball player. In the process, he’s forced a younger generation of fans to acknowledge, respect and be educated on the history of the game.
When discussing integration of baseball we can’t ignore the impact Robinson had on opening the flood gates for darker-skinned Latin and Caribbean players.
Seattle's Nelson Cruz is picking up where he left off with the Orioles last season. Cruz, who signed with B-More in the 2013 offseason, after being suspended 50 games for PED use , took a below-market deal with the O's and led the AL in homers in 2014 with 40, which led to him signing a four-year, $57 million contract with Seattle.
The Mariners were in desperate need of a power bat to protect Robinson Cano. Cruz has asserted himself as a super power in the Mariners lineup. Cruz has five homers in his last four games, including one last night and two Monday at Dodgers Stadium.
In fact, according to MLB Network, 68 percent of the Mariners' runs this season have come via the home run. Expect both of these squads to make postseason runs.
Other MLB News:
National Butterfingers Day
When the Washington Nationals added former Tigers ace Max Scherzer to an already formidable rotation, a host of analysts were picking them to win the World Series. It's safe to say that no one expected the Nats to leave Spring Training with holes in their gloves and fumble to a 2-6 start -- the team's worst jump off since 2009.
If teams don't field, they don't win. That’s the one certainty in the unpredictable game of baseball. With nine errors in their first eight games, the talent-laden Nationals are proving this theory to be full proof.
Another popular nugget you may hear in a class called "Baseball Theory 101," is that winning teams are strong up the middle. Being that Nats shortstop Ian Desmond has six errors already, it's easy to understand how Washington lost 8-7 to Boston on Tuesday and became the first team since 1961 to allow at least three runs in an inning without allowing a hit or walking a batter.
To top it off, the offense has been subpar and the bullpen has been downright shaky. A six-run, fifth inning had given the Nationals a two-run lead. Three errors in the seventh — including two from reliever Blake Treinen — sealed a Red Sox comeback win.
“Same recipe,” Manager Matt Williams said. “If you put all the ingredients together the same way every time, then you’re going to get the same meal. That’s what we’ve been getting. There’s nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said. We got the pitches we wanted to get, didn’t make the plays. That’s the same recipe. That’s all I’ve got.”