Coco Crisp, David Ortiz, and third base coach DeMarlo Hale were set to wear #42, but today's game was postponed.
This is a great idea -- and I commend both Ken Griffey Jr. and Bud Selig for their respective efforts to get it going -- but something has always bothered me when baseball announcers talk about Robinson.
When discussing his career, Robinson is always referred to as having "broken the colour line" in baseball. That's true, but no one truly explains what the colour line was. We are supposed to know about it already -- though if no one talks about it, how will newer fans learn?
No one says how impenetrable the "line" was, the pure hatred that fueled its decades-long existence, how the owners and general managers of every team in baseball banded together and refused to sign any black players. Robinson's debut is presented as antiseptic and, with very few exceptions, absolutely no context is given. Such as how it would be 12 years before every team had at least one black player on its roster; the Red Sox were the last team, in 1959.
Here is some context.
(Laura (who also wrote about Robinson today (echoing some of the same thoughts (we've talked about this before)) tells me that Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo mentioned the tribute Friday night. Remy praised Robinson's courage in "doing what he did", but that was apparently as close as he got to telling us what Robinson actually did. Which wasn't close at all.
Why is it avoided? It has to be a conscious decision. Are people simply uncomfortable telling us these facts? It's an ugly history, but it should not be ignored simply because it was ugly and shameful.
Without offering the necessary context, it sounds as though the colour line existed because of lack of talent, not rampant racism. It's as though when Robinson came along in 1947, well, finally, here was a black player good enough to play alongside the whites. As though the major leagues would have had many black players for years, but none of them had had the necessary skills to reach the pinnacle of the sport. This was an excuse offered pre-1947. The commissioner insisted (truthfully) that there was no rule banning blacks, trying to make people believe there wasn't an understanding among all teams to never sign a black player.
I should point out that not all coverage sidesteps the issue. On ESPN's game last Sunday, Jon Miller said straight out that black people had been systematically "excluded" from the major leagues.
Jim Becker covered Robinson's debut for the AP:
It was a time in our country when in many places blacks couldn't stay in the same hotel as whites, eat in the same restaurants, attend the same movie theaters or even drink from the same water fountains in the South. ... There was no rooting in the press box, but many of us in it that day, like Robinson, had served in the Armed Forces and had just helped to defeat Hitler and thought it would be a good idea to defeat Hitlerism at home.And that's another thing. No one talks about what Robinson went through after April 15, 1947. The death threats, the separate hotels, restaurants, etc. And what about the other National League teams, one of whom (the Cardinals) threatened to go on strike if Robinson remained in uniform? Then there were the slurs from fans. Earlier this week, Coco Crisp said he still hears racist comments when he is on the field.
MLB wants to make today a celebration, though of course it was the institution of MLB that created and nurtured the Jim Crow conditions that prevented so many black players from playing major league ball.
Maybe the coverage today will touch on some of this history. Jon Miller will likely do so again tonight. I'd be curious to know if anyone hears anything.