Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-4-13

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Top of the 1st
The idea of honoring the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, started with a call from Junior Griffey to Commissioner Bud Selig and askingfor permission to honor Robinson by wearing No. 42, which was retired by all of baseball on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s Dodgers debut. Griffey had the right idea, asking for a player from each team having that privilege.

“When I found out about Griffey, I asked to do it, too,” A’s outfielder Milton Bradley said. “What better way to pay tribute to Jackie Robinson?” Bradley has a replica Robinson jersey he wears occasionally, as well as several Negro League jerseys, so that honor fit him perfectly.

A’s left fielder Shannon Stewart and first-base coach Tye Waller also will wear Robinson’s No. 42. So will C.C. Sabathia, Josh Barfield, Gary Sheffield, Barry B*nds, Carlos Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Cameron, Dontrelle Willis, and many more.

What is fascinating is that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, and Houston Astros all will have every member of their team wearing #42. “This is supposed to be an honor,” Torii Hunter told USA Today, “and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you’ve got entire teams doing it. I think we’re killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie’s number, not just because it looks cool.”

One player who won’t is Angels left fielder Garret Anderson, “I just don’t feel I’m worthy of it,” he explained, which is a remarkable statement that should make him worthy of it just for admitting that.

Not too long ago, a number of players admitted to never having heard of Robinson, but fortunately this seems to be changing. It is important, in this steroidal Imus Sharpton age, for baseball to remember its heritage. It’s refreshing to read the comments made by the Phils closer Tom Gordon, “I think we’re all dealing with a lot of issues, but Jackie dealt with a whole heck of a lot of issues and was able to succeed,” the Phillies closer says. “When I look back, I just think how God put the right man in the right place at the right time. He was the catalyst and the only guy that could have done what he did.”

The Indians Josh Barfield recounts, “I’d be honored to get to wear Jackie Robinson’s number,” said Barfield. “He did so much not only for the game, but for the country. He broke down a lot of barriers outside the game.

“We take for granted that we can play this game,” said Barfield. “I think we forget what he went through. People spit in his face. He had to stay at different hotels than the rest of his team.

“It took a special man to go through what he went through. He was playing for a whole race of people. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Phils’ rookie Michael Bourn appreciates Robinson, “Honestly, I really don’t think we realize everything that he had to go through on an everyday basis,” he says. “Teammates wouldn’t talk to him, wouldn’t play catch with him . . . that’s a lot to go through just to play the game that you love.

“While you love the game, there is only so much a man can take . . . He took everything, more than I think any of us could have ever taken. I don’t know if I could have done it.”

“Ten years ago, when MLB honored the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s first game,” writes Hal Bodley of USA Today, “I asked President Clinton had he been president April 15, 1947, would he have called Robinson and, if so, what would he have said.

“I first of all would have thanked him,” Clinton said. “Because I think even then people knew this was something big — even people who didn’t fully understand the implications of it.

“Secondly, I would have commented not simply on his baseball skills, but also on the character, the dignity, the determination, the willingness to endure the rejection — all the things that blacks went through then.

“It took more than athletic skills to get where he was. This was an enormous reflection of his character and his inner self-confidence that he was willing to do this.”

ESPN announcer Dusty Baker told the NY Post, “When I was a kid, most African-Americans were Dodgers fans because of Jackie Robinson. He really meant a lot to all of us, especially in my family. My dad would always ask me, “What would Jackie have done in that situation?” I was also fortunate enough to play with Hank Aaron, who used to talk about Jackie being a huge influence in his life, and the Dodgers, where I found out more about Jackie from some of his former teammates.”

Mets manager Willie Randolph will be the lone Met wearing No. 42 on Sunday at the request of the team’s ownership to recognize the special place Robinson holds in Randolph’s life.

The Yankees’ Robinson Can