Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42


A lot has happened on April 15.

Leonardo De Vinci was born…Abraham Lincoln died…Apollo 13 had the accident that almost destroyed it, but that triggered one of the great triumphs of the space program…Lee surrendered, ending the Civil WarThe Beatles disbanded…I didn’t get my taxes in on time….

I would argue however, and will, that as culturally important as any of these events was that sixty-eight years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. This represented a cultural change that allowed the United States to take a giant step forward toward healing the self-inflicted and almost fatal wound of slavery, and it took a man of surpassing courage and character to do it. (Two men, really: the other was Dodgers GM Branch Rickey.)

Today all MLB players will wear Robinson’s number 42 to honor him. If you haven’t seen the movie “42, or if your children haven’t seen it, this is a good day to get a sense of what Jackie went through as he broke the color line.  You can check out Robinson’s baseball stats here,  and learn about the civil rights work he did after his playing career, in the too-short life that was left to him here. He’s in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, of course, and his entry there has more about his life as well as some good links.

The main thing is, remember him.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a close friend—smart, accomplished, engaged, educated, about 26 years old at the time. She had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. Nobody, then, now or ever, should reach adulthood in the United States without knowing and understanding what Robinson did, and our nation’s debt to him. There is an ethical  duty to remember, and to respect.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Thank you.


20 thoughts on “Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42

    • Interesting—to Bostonians, the anniversary is Patriots Day, which is Marathon day…3rd Monday in April, every year. People think it commemorates Paul’s ride, but it doesn’t: Patriots’ Day (officially Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts and Wisconsin and Patriot’s Day in Maine) commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington (a defeat) and Concord (a victory), the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, on April 19, 1775.

  1. Wait, did you say that every player is going to wear 42 today? All 9 fielders and the batter? (Honest questions, because I had not heard that.)

    I thought EVERY team had to retire number 42 so that NO ONE would ever wear it again. Now, EVERYONE is going to wear it.

    I smell some shameless marketing.

    Honor him? Yes. Exploit him? No. This just looks silly. A smarmy way for baseball to get in the news, engage in self-adulation, and provide a bunch of fodder for commentators for the Minnesota Twins who will have nothing else to talk about.


    • Yup, every player. It’s been that way for several years now.

      I dunno–numbers are anachronistic anyway, with all the games being televised and Jumbotrons announcing the players with giant photos when they bat. Nobody needs a scorecard—some team some day is going to just eliminate them. So it doesn’t bother me.

      • I think the numbers will be used in baseball for as long as they are used in other American team sports. The amateur levels will certainly keep using them, as names become increasingly unpronounceable and numbers might be the only way for fans, parents, coaches and fellow players alike to speak of (and to) players.

  2. Me neither. I didn’t even know about the event, I think it’s great. A plug for MLB? Well, it’s a pretty good plug.

  3. An amazing man. How he avoided smashing that idiots head with his bat I’ll never know (in the movie). I assume that was drawn from an amalgam of incidents, and I will cheerfully admit I have not the patience to do the ethical thing…ignore it.

    • Having played first base more than any other position, I can identify with Robinson’s being spiked by a batter who ran to first while Jackie was required to keep his foot on the bag while stretching to catch a throw for making a putout. That’s the vulnerability of allowing someone to slice your calf muscle and Achilles tendon with one malicious planting of the batter-baserunner’s foot. No way, ever, would I have just endured that spiking and walked (or limped) away. No way would I have suppressed my rage. Robinson’s inspiring example, and not my old age, just might be the only thing keeping me from doing all kinds of violence in my old age.

  4. Baseball. Oh, yes. That’s the game without the fiery crashes, permanent brain injuries, and mourning families isn’t it?

    • Or pieces of the wreckage hurtling into the audience. That’d killed more than one person at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  5. Jack
    An INFINITESIMALLY MINOR Point: The Beatles officially announced their split (or rather, Paul McCartney did) on August 10, 1970, not the 15th. The mistake isn’t an uncommon one, however, as the movie “Apollo 13” featured a scene in which Lovell’s oldest daughter is shown crying over their breakup as the about to watch their father live from space — which, I think, convinced some people the two happened the same day.`

    Good article, otherwise (except that no one under 30 — who wasn’t raised with it — watches baseball).

    • 1.That’s one of the best reasons not to trust people under 30.
      2. That means that they aren’t smart enough yet to watch baseball. They’ll learn.
      3. That position is provably wrong in Boston, where I live, at least spiritually.
      4. It’s really the equivalent of saying that nobody reads the classics any more. If true, it’s not something to crow about, it’s something to fix.

    • Well, I’m from St. Louis, and, BFIB jokes aside, the Cards are pretty much the only sports team you can count on around here (the Blues seem almost as cursed as a certain other blue uniformed team from Chicago, and, even discounting the other controversies around football, the Rams are just Phillies projections levels of putrid).

      • What I mean; the Cards have a pretty substantial under-30 fanbase, if mostly by virtue of being the only consistently good team here.

  6. Jack,
    1) Ageism.
    2) Sports snob.
    3) It was a joke.
    4) Some classics aren’t worth reading. Despite the great characters and interesting story, large swaths of Anna Karenina could never be read again and nothing would be lost. The same can be said for all or parts of other classics. Times change and some “classics” become out of date. There’s a reason Mozart is still remembered while Salieri has been mostly forgotten.

    In other news, I hope you’re well. Did you get my last two emails? If you haven’t responded because of time, no worries — I just know sometimes they don’t go through correctly.


  7. Even Charles Schultz (posthumously) was a big fan of Jackie Robinson, and what his inclusion meant. Warning: Adult content:

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