Every year, on April 15th, every player in baseball wears the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s impact has reached far across the lines of baseball. He broke the color barrier and opened up the doors for players, like Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, etc. to push the limits of baseball far beyond what was known before.
Outside of baseball, he took the field 7 years before Brown vs the Board of Education. Robinson, and Branch Ricky, started down the path of Civil Rights long before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They opened up the door to allow generations of Black, Hispanic and Asian players to play the beautiful game that is baseball.
One of the aspects that I appreciated the most was that they did not sugar coat the language that was used, which will surprise all that know me. I do not curse. I do not particularly like hearing it, but in this case it was needed. Especially the use of the N-word. The movie would have lost a lot if they cut that out. That was the time period, that was real life for Jackie Robinson.
One of the antagonist in the movie was Ben Chapman, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1947. He was a very racist man and there is one scene where he just called Robinson a N about 15 times straight. This was true.
The Phillies were one of the teams that were least accepting of having Robinson in Major League Baseball. They did not want him on the field and didn’t even want him in the city. The Phillies went so far as convincing hotels not to let the Dodgers stay at their establishment.
It took a long time for the Phillies organization to integrate. So long, that they were the last National League team to have a black player: John Kennedy, 1957. Even then, it was a long time for the city of Philadelphia to be really excited to have a non-white man excelling at the sport.
Today, however, that is the farthest from the truth. The Phillies have come such a long way, that it is amazing.
Last week, Brandyn Campbell posted an article from USA Today on Twitter about the lack of African American baseball players today, and we both said we were kind of amazed. You see, we are both Phillies fans and we watch the Phillies regularly and it did not occur to either of us that lack of diversity is a problem.
A few years ago, Steve and Lisa Trapani and I were out to dinner joking about finding a white guy on the Phillies starting line-up (Chase Utley was on the DL.) There was a debate about what heritage Shane Victorino fell under and if he was Caucasian.
On any given night, the Phillies will have an all African-American outfield: Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr. And half of the infield will also be African-American: Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. That leaves Chase Utley, Erik Kratz and Michael Young on the field as the Caucasian players. However, that will change at the end of the month when Carlos Ruiz comes back.
Of the 25-man roster: 20% are African-American, 20% are Latino, which leave 60% as Caucasian. Most of those players that are of Caucasian descent are pitchers.
I love my team. They have a very storied history, but that’s the beauty of history, it’s in the past. Those that stay in the past never are able to move into the future. Those who ignore the past will repeat it.
Jackie Robinson had to change the mind of those around him and, through tears, determination and heartbreak, he did just that. Today, all of baseball will honor this what he did by wearing his number. And there is not a single team in all of baseball that reflects his hard work even more than the current Philadelphia Phillies.