Celebration of Jackie Robinson great day in baseball history

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

Of all the famous days in baseball, none could be greater than Sunday.

It was April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, walked onto a major league baseball diamond, stepped in the batter’s box and broke the color barrier.

Now, 60 years later, baseball remembers him for his accomplishments and for opening the door for many other great players to join the game they deserved to play.

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How many times do you hear someone say that a certain ballplayer is his or her hero, idol, or role model? They are all wrong.

They could be a role model, but not a hero.

A hero is someone like NFL defensive back Pat Tillman who joined the military and fought in Afghanistan where he was killed.

A hero is someone like Jackie Robinson, and not just because he was the first African-American to play professional baseball.

Robinson was a hero for what he endured and how he accepted the cruel and inhumane treatment.

He was the first true civil rights leaders, even before Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King.

Imagine being part of a team and being the best player on that team and helping that team win only to have members of that team sign a petition to have you removed from the roster.

Imagine racial slurs coming at you from all directions both at home and on the road and being refused accommodations at hotels while traveling.

Finding a friend was almost impossible. When someone like shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who was white, stood up for Robinson, he, too, was chastised.

But it was nothing compared to what Robinson endured including death threats. For Robinson, it was difficult to turn the other cheek.

Robinson was considered a fighter, a proud man and one of the most competitive players to ever wear a uniform. As an Army lieutenant, he once risked a court-martial by refusing to sit in the back of a military bus.

Along came Brooklyn team president and general manager Branch Rickey who read to Robinson “The Life of Christ.” Robinson began to understand what he must do, that he exhibit patience, discipline, tolerance, self-control and, most importantly, not respond to any provocation.

The two men worked out a deal with Robinson spending two seasons in the minor leagues with great success before playing his way into history.

During his 10 years in the major leagues, the Dodgers won six pennants. Robinson was voted the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1947 and the Most Valuable Player in 1949. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Those are certainly great awards, but they are merely accessories to his real accomplishments.

Major League Baseball celebrated the 60th anniversary Sunday of Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson as a true American hero.

And believe me, it wasn’t just another day at the ball park.