Monday, April 16, 2007


I am guessing that not many of us watching baseball from the UK knew much about Jackie Robinson's role in US history before we got into baseball - the first time I had even heard his name was at Fenway, when a friendly Red Sox fan explained what the numbers were on the right-field grandstand roof.

To be honest, where I grew up, I didn't really think of racism as an issue - my parents were absolutely resolute in their view that everyone on this earth was created equal regardless of any characteristic that made them "different". I can vividly remember being dragged into the house for a stern talking to when I 'insulted' a school friend using a term when I had no idea what the word meant. Of all the many great lessons my parents taught me, the desire to give everyone credit for who they are, rather than any notion of what they are, is the one I am most proud of them for.

The reason I say that I didn't think racism was an issue, was that the ethnic population in the city I grew up in was very small, and I never witnessed any racism first hand. But with the benefit of hindsight, and a greater personal maturity, I am guessing that if you were to ask any member of the Indian or Pakistani community who were living in Dundee at that time, they most likely have a very different view of what they experienced at that time.

So my first knowledge of widespread racism came in a school class called Modern Studies, which, among other subjects, explored the civil rights movement in the US in the 1950's and 1960's. What struck me at the time, was that this was just 20 years before I was studying these events - which then, and now, seems like no time at all. For anyone who doesn't know about the civil rights movement in the US, please take the time to read some of the history, and the dignity of some of the people who led the fight for America to continue to strive for the belief that "all men are created equal".

Over at Joy of Sox, the important distinction is drawn - Jackie Robinson wasn't the first African-American to play in major league baseball because he was the first to be good enough - but man, was he good enough - many, many players before Robinson were good enough - he was the first to play because the baseball establishment had decided they would allow it.

The Red Sox did not play a proud part in the fight to integrate baseball - they were the last team to recruit an African-American player, some 12 years after Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers, and that legacy continued far beyond 1959. One player who can claim a proud role was Ted Williams - who highlighted the need for the Hall of Fame to consider the careers of Negro League players in his own induction speech.

It was amazing today to watch so many players wearing the #42 in tribute - and hopefully, the tribute will cause many people to ask questions about this incredible man, and the incredible strength he must have had to endure the open hatred he faced.

Her are some quick links:
You can also find out more about the work being done in his name at:

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