Courage, History, Equality and Baseball

Listening to all of the historical retrospectives on the news and writing a bit about Martin Luther King Day for work – nope, no Monday holiday in my industry – got me thinking a lot today about courage, history, equality and baseball…okay the baseball part is pretty much always droning away in the back of my thoughts these days, but you get the general idea.

I have always been proud of Major League Baseball for breaking the color barrier and playing its own part in the history of the Civil Rights Movement all on its own, without government mandate and for what, to my mind, was the best reason of all – Jackie Robinson was good baseball player and would have been an asset to any team.

Of course this act of bravery, on the parts of Robinson, the Dodgers and Major League Baseball as an institution, was just one action. And one action on its own could never solve all of our nation’s problems with racial discrimination. One action couldn’t even solve all of baseball’s issues on that front. But it was a crucial step that opened the door for other players of color to join the league and for all of America to see them playing well and together with white players, to see players of all colors showing the same amazing athletic ability, teamwork, brotherhood and honor on the athletic field of battle. Eyes, minds and hearts were opened and this became one more brave action helping to affirm all of the brave efforts at integration that preceded it and helping to set the stage and inspire all of the brave acts that were to follow.

When we work and play together, we see each other for what we really are as individuals and it becomes harder and harder to hold onto false assumptions until the relationships that result are actually based on something real. This is a concept that we all know instinctively as children but often forget as adults. Baseball offered a refresher course in this all important lesson to a generation of Americans and many took it to heart…many should continue to take it to heart today. It was one action, but it was one loud, crucial action. Whatever the sport’s current popularity may be in relation to other sports, for this reason more than any other, baseball will always be the real national pastime for me.



  1. russelw

    One thing that gets lost to history though, is that not all of baseball was so quick to accept change. While we think of Robinson breaking the color barrier and ending discrimination in baseball, the truth is, it took some teams years before playing a black player. My team, the Cubs, didn’t have a black player( Ernie Banks) until 1953, six years after Robinson played for the Dodgers. Boston was the last team to integrate in 1959. 1959!!!

    We see the same thing today. We may have a black president, but there are plenty of people out there that are not ready to accept. It’s a shame that we can’t just let people be

  2. blithescribe

    Jane – You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.
    Russel – You’re quite right about back then, about today and about it being a shame. Also, as we all know, the players who helped break the color lines continued to face discrimination and sometimes violence on the field and sometimes even in their own locker rooms. As I said, it was one action and didn’t even solve all of the problems in baseball at the time. As a student of history though, I have always been fascinated by first steps, even when they’re the first of many long hard steps, because making the decision to be different, map uncharted territory, etc. is to my mind one of the things that makes an individual or group truly exceptional and forces a society to evolve…even if that evolution is slow and society drags its feet every step of the way.
    – Kristen

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