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home : columns : columns July 22, 2017

4/16/2013 4:27:00 PM
Remembering '42' - forever
One of the great decisions Major League Baseball ever made was deciding to commemorate the role Jackie Robinson played in baseball.
In 1997, MLB permanently retired the No. 42. No team in the Majors will ever be allowed to award the number to a current player (see the "Did You Know" on page 1).
But then the League went a step further. They declared April 15 - the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 - as Jackie Robinson Day. And on that day, or the day after if a team doesn't play on April 15, every player in the Majors wears 42. What a great idea.
Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was asked about the day and all MLB players wearing No. 42 on that day. His reply, "He is the most important man to ever play the game."
That was an interesting and very thoughtful statement.
Notice that Morneau didn't say he was the "greatest" man to play the game or that he was the most "talented" man to ever play the game. Morneau said, he was the most "important" man to ever play the game.
That word, I believe, takes Jackie Robinson to an entirely different level in terms of his significance in the game of baseball. Oh, yes, there have been great players - legends - like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron.
But there never was and never will be a man as important to the game of baseball as Jackie Robinson. When you discuss the role Robinson played in the game, he is singular.
What a wonderful tribute to a man who bore unspeakable abuse, but who gave players of all race an opportunity to play the game at its highest level.
Here's hoping we see the No. 42 on every MLB jersey every April 15.
Eager to see '42'
The new movie, 42, that debuted this weekend in theaters around the country is drawing rave reviews.
I can't wait to see it and, when it comes out on DVD, add it to my collection of baseball movies.
Randy Shaver, the news and former sports anchor on KARE-11, said he saw it over the weekend and labeled it outstanding.
As I understand it, Jackie's wife, Rachel Robinson, played a big part in ensuring the movie's accuracy.
Shaver made a good point during Monday night's newscast that the movie will give new generations a history lesson on the significance of Robinson's role in baseball. That might be the most important aspect of the film. It will remind those of us who know his story the role he played and it will teach this generation and generations to come his "importance" in the game.
Here's hoping it breaks box office and DVD sales.
Favorite Robinson story
I can't recall where I saw it - I believe it was a video some years ago (when we still used VCRs) - but I recall a former teammate of Robinson's telling the story.
I will never tell it as well as his former teammate did, but here's the gist of the story:
When Jackie broke into the Majors, he was positioned at first base even though his natural position was second. They played him at first mostly because there was a lesser chance of contact than there might be at second.
Well, an opposing player, Enos Slaughter, who was vehemently against Robinson playing Major League Baseball, intentionally spiked him during Jackie's first season. As Robinson reached for a throw at first, Slaughter landed on Robinson's lower leg leaving deep gash marks in his leg.
The man who was telling the story recalled that Robinson never said a word and continued to play despite the bloodied leg.
Several years later, Robinson had become established in the League and was now playing second base. Slaughter, who spiked him during Robinson's first season, reached first base in a regular-season game. A ground ball was hit to short, Jackie took the throw from short and turned to throw to first to complete the double play.
However, Slaughter failed to slide, or slid to late, and Jackie hit him square in the mouth. Slaughter fell to the ground with broken teeth and a bloodied mouth. Slaughter got up, never said a word and went back to the dugout.
Jackie remembered - Slaughter did, too.

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