Seventy years ago today, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers made his debut at Ebbets Field. This historic moment marked the first time in the twentieth century that an African-American played major league baseball.
Fifty years later, on April 15, 1997, President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Jackie Robinson in Shea Stadium, and Major League Baseball retired his number 42 throughout the league. “No man is bigger than baseball,” commissioner Bud Selig said, “except Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson is bigger than baseball.”
By signing Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers had ended the institutionalized racial segregation in baseball that had existed since the 1880s. Robinson endured the slings and arrows of racial slurs bravely and stoically, proving through his play on the field that blacks were just as capable as whites of playing outstanding baseball. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, there is little doubt that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier impacted the history of America. As the world continues to face issues of hatred and discrimination today, perhaps Robinson’s example is one we should all keep in mind as we continue to strive forward.
Bud Selig is down to his last handful of days as commissioner of baseball. Selig took over baseball as chairman of the executive council in 1992, following Fay Vincent’s resignation. Though he insisted that he would never take the job permanently, Selig was elected commissioner in 1998 and will have been in charge of baseball for the second-longest term in baseball history. Only Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who held the job from 1920 to 1944, was commissioner longer. On Sunday, January 25, Rob Manfred will take over as the new commissioner of baseball, thus ending Selig’s long run.