I love Jackie Robinson
I love Jackie Robinson.
I love that Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager, Branch Rickey, chose Canada as Robinson’s first stop on the way to major league integration, when he assigned him to Brooklyn's minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals. It is perhaps, the most underappreciated story in Canada’s sporting history.
I love that Canada broke the professional league colour barrier.
I love that Montreal embraced Jackie Robinson; that Robinson would later call Montreal an ‘oasis’ for him and his family.
I love that Robinson eventually won over racist Montreal Royals manager Clay Hoppper, because of his play and character.
I love this quote from the Pittsburgh Courier after Montreal won the Little World Series in 1946, as Jackie Robinson left from the stadium to a departing train: "It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind.”
I love that Jackie Robinson held to his word, and didn’t fight back against the racial taunts and abuse for his first two years in the major leagues – and when that two years was up, he didn’t stop fighting.
I love that a baseball player had almost as big a role in the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King.
I love that Branch Rickey chose the perfect man to break the colour barrier. I’m not sure anyone else could have handled the pressure.
I love that when Jackie got to the bigs, he dominated. His style of play changed the game.
I love that he won the Rookie of the Year, and two years later, MVP.
I love that Satchel Paige, probably the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, still got a chance to pitch in the bigs, even though he was far past his prime, because of Jackie.
I love that by the time Jackie Robinson was near his death, he was considered an ‘Uncle Tom’ by many civil rights protesters -- not because it tarnishes his legacy -- but because it shows how much the civil rights movement was able to achieve in such a short time.
Finally, selfishly, I love that, as a sports writer, Jackie Robinson gives me a sense of importance.
It reminds me that, in spite of that fact that I write about grown men chasing a ball around a field, sport has the power to make great changes in society. Jackie Robinson day provides a yearly reminder that sport is not a vacuum. It plays a crucial role in the development of social, racial and gender equality. It provides a backdrop for more important discussion.
When a player signs a 10 year 200 million dollar contract, we are reminded of modern economic inequality. When a team’s owner decides to move a franchise without the consent of the city, we are reminded how powerless, and mistreated fans and citizens are. When Danica Patrick struts around in a bikini, advertising for Go Daddy, we are reminded of how far we are from gender equality.
I love that Jackie Robinson is, and always will be, my favourite athlete of all time.