Or, The Consequences of Prejudice
Today is Jackie Robinson Day—the day an African American man first played major league baseball. Today, four of my favorite Yankees are sporting Robinson’s number 42: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Joe Torre, and Mariano Rivera. Today, baseball announcers and ESPN analysts are talking about how wonderful it was that Major League Baseball finally let African Americans play baseball and how great a man Jackie Robinson was. I heartily agree with both statements, although I suspect that we Caucasians will never fully understand Robinson’s greatness.
Prejudice sickens me, and it always has. As I’ve been thinking about Jackie Robinson and baseball, I’ve begun to realize something. Often, we think about prejudicial thinking as hurting the person enduring the prejudice. We don’t really thing about how much prejudice hurts the person who has prejudice. Let me give a few examples from baseball to show what I mean:
Sachel Page (spelling?) was one of baseball’s Negro League’s best pitchers—ever. No one could hit him, not even Josh Gibson or Buck O’Neil. By the time Jackie Robinson cleared the way for other African Americans to play Major League Baseball, Sachel was entering the twilight of his career. With his good years behind him, he joined the Cleveland Indians, who promptly won a World Series with his help. And this was the aging Sachel Page. The tragedy in this—aside from the travesty against a race of people due to their skin color—is that white Americans missed out on Sachel’s best years. Because of the prejudice of our forefathers (with no help from the bigoted first commissioner of baseball, the not-so-honorable Kennesaw Mountain Landis), most Americans never saw Sachel’s genius, skill, and durability during his prime.
Another example: my darling New York Yankees. Just after Jackie Robinson made his debut in Major League Baseball, a scout called the Yankees home office and told them about the most amazing outfielder prospect he’d ever seen. The guy could hit, run, catch—you name it he could do it. The Yanks ignored the tip because that particular outfielder was an African American. Oh, I forgot to mention that his name was Willie Mays. The prejudice of the Yankees home office cost them the chance to acquire the Say Hey Kid. Idiots!
Bigotry and prejudice destroy those who practice it. Think about how much less rich baseball history would be without the memories of Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith. And where would all the free agents be without Kurt Flood? Think of how cheesy ESPN highlights would be without Derek Jeter throwing his patented throw-on-the-fly to first, flipping the ball to Posada, and diving into the stands. Boston would still be waiting to win a World Series if Big Papi was playing in the Negro Leagues. And where would modern day baseball be without Garret Anderson, Tori Hunter, Frank Thomas…? The list goes on and on.
I really believe that Jackie Robinson paved the way for African Americans not only baseball, but in business and politics. He showed people on national television that skin color had no bearing on a person’s abilities. I think of how blessed America is to have leaders such as Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, J. C. Watts, and Thomas Sowell, just to name a few. If we can rid ourselves of our remaining prejudices, think of how much better America will become.