December 13, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Forty years ago today, one of baseball’s most famous players passed away when Jackie Robinson died.
A lot can be said about Robinson the player, the person, and what he stood for. On the field, he was a tremendous all-around talent and a fiery team leader. Of course, what he’s more famous for is his overall impact, as he was the first player to break the color barrier.
Like I said, a lot can be said about Robinson and what he represented, but for right now I’d rather spend the small amount of space I have available to focus on another aspect of Robinson—how young he was when he died. In October of 1972, Robinson was just 53 years old.
Let’s put it in perspective this way. Less than two years ago, legendary fireballer Bob Feller died. Feller entered Cooperstown the same day as Robinson in 1962. Yet despite living 38 years longer than Robinson, Feller was actually born a few months before Robinson. If Robinson had Feller’s lifespan, he would’ve died early in 2011.
As you may have heard, this weekend former Democratic senator George McGovern died. He was running for president in 1972 when Robinson passed away. McGovern is just three years younger than Robinson. Heck, Robinson is actually six months younger than Nelson Mandela, who is still around.
Robinson was 53 years, eight months, and 24 days when he passed away. Barack Obama will reach that mark on April 28, 2015. These next few weeks will determine if he’s still president by then. George W. Bush hit that mark before becoming president. Bill Clinton hit it during his second administration.
Going back into the world of baseball for a second, the former players closest in age to 53 years, eight months, and 24 days include Willie McGee, Harold Baines, and Bill Gullickson. You don’t expect any of them to die anytime soon.
If you’ve ever seen photos of Robinson near the end of his life, he sure doesn’t look like someone in his early 50s. He looks quite a bit older than that. He was nearly blind, had gray hair, and couldn’t walk around that well.
Yet he was still active. About a week before he died, major league baseball honored Robinson before Game Two of the World Series. Robinson didn’t just passively accept the honor, but used the opportunity to talk to say how happy he’ll be when there’s finally a black manager in baseball.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Robinson would take the opportunity to promote a cause he believed in. A few years earlier, when Curt Flood became the first player to challenge the reserve clause, no active players testified on Flood’s behalf, and virtually no retired players did either—but Robinson did. He testified in the courtroom for Flood.
That’s rather fitting, given that Robinson once claimed, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” And it’s a damn shame he died so young.
Aside from that, many other baseball related events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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