All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Answer to The Ultimate Question Of Life, the Universe and Everything

It's 42, of course.

Today baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. It's the 60th anniversary of Robinson's first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers (who would later move to California and draft Bubba, among other things ;-). The Reds' Ken Griffey, Jr. asked permission to wear number 42 today, to honor Robinson. It was granted, and they asked him if it would be all right if other teams also did the same. He said that would be great, so today every major league team will have at least one player wearing #42. Some are having the entire team, including coaches and batboys, wear it.

It will of course be Griffey who wears #42 today for the Reds. And for the Yankees, Mariano Rivera wears #42 every day - the only player left who was grandfathered in when Robinson's number was retired league-wide. Cano, Jeter, and Torre will also wear #42 today.

Some have suggested that Cincinnati should also honor Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese, for his support of Robinson:

He refused to sign a petition that threatened a boycott if Robinson joined the team. When Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 and traveled with them during their first road trip, he was heckled by fans in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd. The gesture was especially telling because Reese was born and raised near then-segregated Louisville, Kentucky.

That moment is captured in a monument in Brooklyn, New York, at Key Span Stadium at Coney Island:

And there's a statue of Reese by the entrance to Louisville Slugger Field, where the Bats play:

Heaven knows there are still problems with racial prejudice in Cincinnati, in the U.S., and in baseball. The number of African-American players is dropping, at least partly because the economics of baseball encourage drafting college players, and fewer African-Americans can afford college. There's also "positional segregation" - the tendency for players to be channeled into certain positions based on race. For example, pitchers and catchers are more likely to be white, while outfielders more likely to be black. (Roughly 10% of baseball players are black, but almost 50% of outfielders are.) Then there's the whole issue of coaches/managers.

Clearly, there's a lot of work still to be done. But I can't help but be impressed by the progress that has been made in a relatively short time. Robinson broke the color barrier 60 years ago. That's not so long ago. There are many people alive now who were alive then. And yet...what Robinson went through is almost unimaginable by today's standards.

posted by BubbaFan, 1:02 PM


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