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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Comment of the DayIt didn't come here, but I'm off the clock at NBC and it's the kind of thing that sparks good discussions on ShysterBall. In response to my post criticizing baseball for making all players wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson day, reader Web-Gem had this to say:
This is not a "tribute", this is MLB's way of making more money. Now the MLB can sell #42 jerseys of every player in the MLB. The kid who has the Pujols #5 jersey now has got to have the Pujols #42 jersey!
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 5:07pm
Jeff Mathews said...
Fat, drunk white guys were never systematically banned from the league*. Nor were the Irish**, Jews, or Asians; though one could argue that there was significant discrimination against two of those groups.
Regardless of MLB and Selig’s motives for this promotion, Jackie Robinson is worthy of being honored.
** Hibernians were so prevalent in early baseball that some believed the Irish were just “naturally,” better at it. Just check out some of the names from this squad.
Posted 04/15 at 09:25 AM
I agree with your point about the Mets co-opting the Dodgers history and trying to make it their own. Fred Wilpon seems to think that his childhood in Brooklyn trumps 47 years of Mets history. It is ridiculous.
However, if you can’t recognize the significance of Jackie Robinson outside of “he was a great second baseman,” then I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps in the narrow lens of on-field accomplishments Babe Ruth is a more significant historical figure, but Jackie Robinson’s cultural and social significance make him the most important American athlete probably ever. Was it luck or coincidence that it was Jackie who was the first black player in the majors? Maybe, but it was still him and that’s goddamn important.
And it’s a damn shame that MLB would exploit his legacy, which is what I think is happening today.
Posted 04/15 at 09:32 AM
I do recognize the significance of Robinson being the first black to play. I understand the oppressive history of blacks in America, I understand what he went through to break a color barrier, and he’s an icon, I get that.
My point was that where do you stop? It’s not as if the blacks had the market cornered on an oppressed people making good. I’d say the blacks were on a picnic compared to what the US did to Native Americans. Therefore, shouldn’t Jim Thorpe have his number retired?
Either way, my main point was that retired numbers should be a team honor, not a league one.
I also agree with you on the shamelessness of MLB exploiting Robinson. First they say nobody can wear #42, then suddenly everyone can wear it for a day. Is the number retired or isn’t it???All about the money. Thanks, Bud Selig, you assh*le.
Posted 04/15 at 10:00 AM
It doesn’t stop. The Hall unveiled a new Robinson plaque last year, one that makes mention of his social impact. His original plaque, which served just fine for decades, had no such mention—the text was about how good a ballplayer he was.
I liked the old one better.
Posted 04/15 at 10:39 AM
Jack Marshall said...
Too many heroes of the civil rights movement get forgotten. Ten years ago, I talked to four, well educated 20 somethings, one of them black, and none had ever heard of Jackie Robinson. If the 42 stunt helps some kids remember him, his courage and what he did for baseball and America, good. I don’t care about what other crasser motives may be behind it.
Next up for some over-due respect: Canada Lee.
Posted 04/15 at 04:37 PM
I don’t want to sit here and claim money wasn’t a factor at all… but they do pretty much immediately auction off the stuff they do like this on mlb.com
Im going to say it was a very small part of the reason for doing this, though.
Im a big admirer of Mr. Robinson, but Ive never liked that they retired #42, frankly. Its kind of silly to retire a number across baseball, IMHO. For instance, the poor Giants have to have Jackie’s number next to their retired numbers… and the man retired rather than play for them. I would rather there be a bronze statue of Jackie in front of each stadium, even. Retired numbers are just so… hokey. In the end, though, Im glad we’ve erred somewhat in the direction of too much recognition rather than the alternative…
Its also funny how he no longer gets the recognition he deserves. I think if he had been the 3rd black player rather than the first we might be more aware of how great a player he was. Phenomenal hitter, superb baserunner and a extremely versatile fielder with a great glove. He is, perversely, underrated…
Posted 04/16 at 01:25 AM
bdub: that’s funny.
I don’t think they actually had the player names on the back, so its not so much the “Pujols #42 jersey” as the “Cardinals #42 jersey”.
But I think its a mom-and-apple-pie move (really a Selig chasing a legacy other than PEDs), more than a sell jerseys move.
Posted 04/16 at 02:45 PM