Jackie Robinson

  • October 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government, American University

    In early September 1957, Central High School in Little Rock became the focus of world-wide attention when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus decided to deploy the National Guard to prevent the nine African American students who had applied and been chosen to integrate the school from entering the building. For a three week period, the Central High grounds resembled the set of a science fiction film of the era – upright American soldiers with bayonet-tipped rifles protecting innocent children from an alien force in their midst. Finally, on September 25th, the Little Rock Nine, now with the support of a federalized Arkansas National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division – activated and sent to Little Rock by President Dwight D. Eisenhower – were escorted into Central High to begin a school year that they and everyone else in Little Rock would never forget.

    The Little Rock crisis did not escape the attention of former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson. Just over nine years before, Robinson entered, almost overnight, into the lives of white America when he became the first African American to penetrate one of the most sacrosanct citadels of white supremacy – professional baseball. On April 15th, 1947, when Robinson jogged to first base on Opening Day at Ebbets Field, he did more than just break the color barrier in what was then America’s most popular sport. He destroyed it.

  • April 13, 2012

    by John Schachter

    To many wise people, baseball possesses an importance beyond the comprehension of non-fans. Emotions and moods ebb and flow with the fate of our favorite teams. Baseball lingo fills our conversations, as we talk about a ballpark figure, a whole new ballgame, playing hardball, covering all the bases, stepping up to the plate and hitting it out of the ballpark. Or someone batting a thousand or being off base, something being bush-league or inside baseball. And, of course, people invoking the infield fly rule because of a routine and playable, if fair, pop-up in the infield with less than two outs and the bases loaded or runners on second and third. (OK, maybe that’s not as common.)

    But baseball as hobby, diversion and pastime is merely one aspect of the game. The sport is sometimes so much more, a reflection of our times and our society, for better and for worse. This Sunday, April 15, will be a reminder of one of those “for better” examples. That day will mark the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the so-called color barrier and making his major league baseball debut. Teams and fans across America will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day to pay tribute to the son of Georgia sharecroppers who grew up to become an incomparable leader and symbol of civil rights challenges and advancement.

    Humorist Dave Berry once pinpointed what he saw as a critical difference between the sexes. “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life,” Barry remarked, “she will choose to save the infant's life – without even considering if there are men on base.” While men and women may quibble over various aspect of the sport, there is virtual unanimity when it comes to recognizing the magnitude of Jackie Robinson’s role.

    The Major League Baseball tribute to Robinson on his day includes all players wearing his uniform number 42, which has otherwise been retired by all teams. The league website devotes a page to Robinson’s story and his “immeasurable impact” on the game and beyond. The page salutes Robinson’s courage, commitment, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, excellence, and quest for justice. Countless other adjectives could further describe Robinson.