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.