April 15 is what some would look at as a day of reverence in MLB. It’s the day set aside as Jackie Robinson Day, begun in 2004 by the league in honor of Robinson’s major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Just search the name Jackie Robinson on the internet. You get results about movies, his Wikipedia page, his T-Shirt sales, his biography, and his foundation. Over the next few weeks, his name is probably going to be one of the hottest search topics and biggest Twitter trends out there.
If you want to learn about who Robinson was, or his list of accomplishments as a ballplayer, then you’ll find an abundance of reading material.
What you don’t find by searching for Jackie Robinson on the internet, is a true sense of who the person really was and what he has meant to so many people of all races and in all sports.
“He broke the race barrier…” you’ll see time and again. “He changed sports forever…” is another favorite phrase used by those who want to try to capture the unbelievable impact that Robinson made on the American timeline. And all of that is true, and cannot be disputed by anyone who knows Robinson’s story.
But it’s all in someone else’s words for the most part.
On April 12 of this year, theaters worldwide premiered the new movie “42”, a film about Robinson’s life and his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As with anything produced in Hollywood, it should be looked at first as a piece of entertainment, and then as a loose historical record. In either case, it should be a film well worth the price of admission, and one that any baseball fan worth their weight in sunflower seeds needs to see.
But again, it’s someone else’s view, someone else’s vision, and someone else’s spin on Robinson’s extraordinary life.
There is only one true way to get yourself immersed in what Jackie Robinson had to endure and why his walk through life and through baseball means so much.
Go live that life yourself.
While Robinson’s courage and determination have certainly opened doors for many who would have never had the opportunity to play baseball or participate in professional sports at all, there is still so much work to be done, and you don’t have to be a Hall of Fame quality ballplayer to help do it. You don’t even have to know how to catch or hit a ball.
What you have to do is find the same inner strength that Robinson did, to stand up to what is wrong and unjust and to fight for what you believe is right–a quality that so many in today’s world (myself included) seem to lack.
We sit and watch the world go by and sometimes gawk in awe and amazement of the great things that are done, or fall back into shock or disbelief at some of the horrors that humans can produce.
What Jackie Robinson’s legacy should mean to us all is to not just sit in the bleachers and watch the same players go through the motions day in and day out. Stand up and insert yourself into the game. Become one of the players, and make your own mark in whatever way you can.
Baseball players from every major league team wear the number 42 on Jackie Robinson day, in tribute to the man who helped change their sport and shape their nation. That number is forever linked with one of the greatest ballplayers and bravest men who ever tied up a pair of spikes.
What will be linked with you when you have shaken off this mortal coil and returned to the dust from whence you came?