Last night I went to see "42". The movie about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. Major League Baseball has declared April 15th Jackie Robinson Day. 66 years after his debut. His number has been retired too. Nobody but Jackie, can wear that number again except on Jackie Robinson Day when EVERY player wears 42. Its' too heavy for a single player. The abuse, name calling, constant belittling, death threats, roaring boos, fastballs to the skull.....42 lived that. I watched the movie knowing I didn't have that kind of courage, strength or elegance to endure what he did. Not many of us do. He was chosen to blaze a trail that transcended baseball. With the weight of a society's scorn on his shoulders, he stole home.
My uncle and Jackie Robinson crossed paths in 1951 when they both played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I've always been proud of this. Feeling I was just one degree of separation from Jackie. In 1955 when Jackie was 36 and my uncle was 26 the Dodgers finally won the World Series The Brooklyn Bums did it! I have this picture and have always been happy to point out that my uncle is standing next to Jackie Robinson.
The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Yankees to win the World Series. My uncle was back up catcher to Roy Campanella. Jackie played 3rd Base that year.
My uncles' 50th Anniversary card (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers)
Jackie Robinson's 50th Anniversary card (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers)"42" is that kind of ride. Some people's lives were meant to be on the big screen so we can affirm their value.
Jackie's loneliness must have been immense. I am an only child whose father died before I could remember him. Loneliness has been my companion too. I have felt left out and misunderstood and with those feelings I join the ranks of the human race. I think when Elvis sang "Are You Lonesome Tonight" he was terribly lonely which is why that song is so powerful. Me and Elvis have nothing on Jackie. The lonely maverick changed society...he just happened to be a really good baseball player.
Once he retired from baseball he tirelessly worked and fund raised for civil rights issues and leaders. Equality was his destiny. He was certain of it. He showed us how to be better, walked us out of the cave using baseball as a catalyst. My 11 year old son has grown up with integration. When he saw the movie I noticed a reversal. He was as shocked at the treatment of Jackie as the whites were at seeing Jackie take the field in 1947. Three generations later... it worked.
His grave stone reads, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives". True.
That got me thinking about the impact I have in my small world and how grateful I am to the brave who have gone before me.
"Stealing Home: The Jackie Robinson Story" is a available on amazon.