Honoring Jackie Robinson
re-retiring 42


The courage, dignity and class that Jackie Robinson showed was a big part of transforming our culture.  Bill James had an eloquent set of comments on Jackie's baseball life:


So it's the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby breaking the color barrier in MLB.  What is your take on Ben Chapman and Herb Pennock's roles in the harrassment that Robinson got that year?  Pennock was shown talking boycott,  while Chapman,  well if you saw '42' you know what I am getting at.  Was this accurate or was it telescoped?  Was Chapman esp. that bad?
Asked by: Manushfan

Answered: 7/6/2017
 Well. . . I think Chapman was probably as racist as the movie showed him to be, and more.   It is telescoped in this sense, that racism was very widely spread around the culture.   There were not two racists in the league opposing Jackie, but more like 200.   Chapman has been chosen to represent them.   It is fair that he was chosen to represent them.

Chapman's explanation was, "Sure, I called him all those things."   Paraphrasing, but he said things like this.  "Sure, I called him all those things.   It's just the way it was.   Southerners were harassed about being rednecks.   Catholics took shit about being Catholic.   Short players took crap about being short.   Guys who weren't bright were called "Dummy" and "Stupido".   Farmers were called "Rube".   Jackie wasn't any different than anybody else." 

It's not a justification, but it's true in his mind.   It was a tougher world; people BELIEVED in active intimidation as a part of the game.   The entire culture believed in it, more or less.   The problem with representing Chapman as "the" racist is not that he was not racist; it is that it misrepresents racism by packaging it as something for which a few players were responsible.
Dixie Walker, a great player (as Chapman was) was the leading racist ON the Dodgers when Jackie came up, and he was with the team throughout the 1947 season.   Chapman and Dixie Walker had been buddies as young men.   They had played together on an Pro-Am team before they played Pro Ball.    Dixie had to keep his mouth shut with the Dodgers.   Chapman was, in a sense, speaking for his old buddy, saying about Jackie the things that Dixie could not say.  
What I am trying to get to is that Chapman became infamous in this regard because of some things that he did in one series in Philadelphia (and at other times) that were over the top.   They were unusual, so the reporters wrote about them; they got into the newspaper, they became part of the history of the event.
But if you could go back to 1947 and see what was happening, what would shock you is not the things that were over the top, but the things that were normal and accepted.   If a pitcher yelled at Jackie before he pitched "Hey, N-----, I'm going to put this ball in your ear," that wouldn't have been over the top; that would have been normal.    If a runner "accidentally" spiked Jackie on a play at first base, that wouldn't have been over the top; that would have been normal.   If a fan bellowed out one racist insult after another, that wouldn't have been over the top; that would have been normal.  


Between 1947 and 1989, when Ken Griffey Jr. was a rookie, the nation moved together, in a bipartisan way, into the realization that we should treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.  Sports had an absolutely crucial role in America's transformation in this.

The tone and goals have moved away from "Do to others as you would be done by" and turned into something more akin to --- > exploiting 'microaggressions' for political advantage.  These days we are less apt to ask, what would create the best country for ALL people to live in - rich/poor, male/female, minority/white - and more apt to ask, "How can this latest news event be leveraged to the advantage of some Hyphen American group?"  

On TV, a guest was asked about the Steve Scalise shooting.  Can we come together to reduce violence?  Her reply, "He is a racist.  I am a black woman first, and an American second."  The result of that approach is not greater love and understanding, but greater conflict and anger.  Jackie's goal was not the creation of a Black America and a White America.  His goal was Martin Luther King's.  Jackie led us toward a society of greater brotherhood, understanding, and love.  He died with the knowledge that he had helped make America a better place to live.  Will you and I be able to say the same?

Dr. D urges all Denizens to take a broader perspective.  As the Dalai Lama has advised, "Your job is to live peacefully together."  When our true motivation is "Do unto others as you would have done unto you," the happiness of all around us friend and foe, we can accomplish great things together.  

The difference between Jackie Robinson's life and Ken Griffey's life, in terms of the peace each man enjoyed, was simply incredible.  Which is why it is so noble for today's African-American athletes, and their white teammates, to wear the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.




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