Sunday and Monday

Posted on April 15th, 2007 – 6:47 PM
By La Velle

I spent Sunday at home, cleaning up and watching baseball games. I was curious to see how all the Jackie Robinson tributes looked.

It certainly was different to see all the No. 42′s and a few high socks to go with it. I saw Curtis Granderson, Craig Monroe, Jermaine Dye and C.C. Sabathia wearing the number. I also had the Yankees-A’s game on but wasn’t watching, but the announcers led a running conversation about Robinson that seemed to last a few innings. I thought that was pretty neat.

I don’t know how many baseball fans have looked into Robinson’s legacy but I still find out some things about him I didn’t know.

When I worked at the Kansas City Star, I interviewed college professors about the social impact of Robinson breaking the color barrier. One professor told me about the many African-Americans who fought for the country in World War II but returned to this country to the same prejudice and second-class citizenship that existed when they left, and that added to the feeling of hopelessness at the time (I wish I could remember the name of the syndrome she used).

So Robinson breaking the color barrier was an unbelievable lift to African-Americans. By 1959, every major league team had had at least one black player on the roster, so black baseball fans had someone to identify with in every major city.

I know Torii Hunter feels strongly about allowing only a select few players to wear the number. Torii is doing some great things to promote the game to youths and is one of the best people I’ve ever covered,  but I disagree with him.

Any player has the right to wear the number if they want to pay respect to Robinson’s legacy. There would be a little hypocrisy in denying that to someone who isn’t African-American and wanted to honor Robinson. And I would have even more respect for a non-black player who wanted to wear the number. That would tell me he, `gets it.’  That’s just my opinion.

To be honest, I’ve also believe the number should not have been retired and available to players who understand the significance of No. 42 and why it’s held in high regard. My friends immediately ask what if Barry Bonds wanted to wear No. 42. My view is that if Barry wanted to wear the number, let him. But he would set himself up for an even more extreme degree of criticism if he continued to fuel controversy while wearing the number.

And I also respect the wishes of someone like the Angels’ Garrett Anderson, who felt he wasn’t worthy of wearing the number.

These were some of the thoughts going through my mind as I changed channels to check in on games while the Twins were making Jae Seo look like an All-Star and Joe Nathan was having a rare off-day.

It’s on to Seattle tomorrow night as I prepare for the Twins-Mariners series. We’ll get the results of Punto’s MRI up as soon as we can. And I’m going to try to pull off an impromptu Q and A session here late tomorrow night. I’m thinking about checking here around 11 p.m. CST to answer any questions you may have. It’s something I occasionally did on our message boards in past years when I’m on the road. Talk to you tomorrow….

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