Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reflections of Jackie Robinson [J. Mark English]

On this day, we remember the awesome legacy of Jackie Robinson. The enormity of the impact he left on the game of baseball, the sporting world as a whole, and the nation which in his time was stuck in a malaise of racial hatred.

Jackie Robinson was unique not because of his race, or because of tremendous skills as ball player. He was unique because of his dignity, integrity, grace and certitude. General Manager Branch Rickey sought out a player who could handle the pressures of being the "first". The second, was Larry Doby. It is fitting that he is not remembered as well as Robinson, because the label of the trailblazer makes you the constant target.

Rickey understood this, and he knew he needed not just a great player, but a saint with the foundation of a reserved warrior. Someone who could take the punches, the abuse, and not react. Robinson was such a person, and persons of this variety are very rare.

This is why we celebrate this man, who sacrificed much of himself to advance the opportunities of not just a race, but of a nation. Nearly 80 years before Robinson started for the Dodgers on April 15, 1947, President Abraham Lincoln waged a war to free the slaves in the Civil War. President Lincoln knew that this country could not accomplish what it was capable of without the painful expulsion of slavery. Jackie Robinson soaked in the pain and punishment that all of baseball should have absorbed.

In the Old Testament, in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter III, there is the well known passage:

For everything there is a season, and a time for very purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Jackie Robinson was every season. His purpose truly was the work from the heavens. He made the most of his time on this planet, and planted the seed of real change for our great country. He helped healed the wounds that were still very much open following our nations past of slavery and segregation. He gave black and white fans a chance to sit together and laugh at an error, mourn during a loss, dance in happiness in victory...he gave both races the opportunity to put aside senseless bigotry, and to form a common cause through baseball.

George Will of the Washington Post finished his column today with a fitting reflection on the impact of Robinson:

As Martin Luther King Jr., who was 18 in 1947, was to say, Robinson was "a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides." "Robinson," writes Eig, "showed black Americans what was possible. He showed white Americans what was inevitable."

By the end of the 1947 season, America's future was unfolding by democracy's dialectic of improvement. Robinson changed sensibilities, which led to changed laws, which in turn accelerated changes in sensibilities.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson's middle name was homage to the President who said "speak softly and carry a big stick."

His stick weighed 34 ounces, which was enough.

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