Forgive another post about baseball, particularly after my recent post noting how rarely I diverted from legal and business affairs.
Jackie Robinson was born 100 years ago today. There is an entire section of today’s Times devoted to his life, and it is well worth reading as both baseball and social history Although little will approach the emotional pull of Ken Burns’ treatment of Robinson in his epic baseball history, I confess that a tear (or more) came to my eyes in thumbing through the Times treatment.
I grew up in Brooklyn and my father took me to my first baseball game, at Ebbetts Field, to see Robinson play. It is not possible to explain the role of the Dodgers in Brooklyn, nor the fervor of Dodger fans in favor of Robinson. We did know we were making history. It was not that history found out about us. It was a knowing love of the man and the moment, and a proud moment for each of us. We particularly hated those players who insulted or spiked Robinson, particularly hated those teams that were attacking #42. Take that, St. Louis Cardinals!
Robinson is one of the few athletes to be relevant 62 years after his last game, and 47 years after his inexplicable early demise. I still tell people what it was like in the stands, why Channel 9 invented split screen TV because viewers were more interested in seeing Robinson lead off first base than in watching the batter, how he stole home against the Yankees (yeah, the hated Yanks) in the World Series (of all places). What I really can’t express to anyone is the sense of loss, to this day, felt about the man.
Memory is shrouded in the golden haze of childhood, sports is the early glue of a youngster defining who he is and what his tribe looks like, time promotes the mundane to the heroic, all this is true. And it is easy to glorify someone whose social contribution is glorified by just about everyone else. I don’t care the reason. Every time I go to Fenway and see #42 on the facade where the retired numbers are displayed, my heart skips a beat.