Major League Baseball has been celebrating April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day since 1997, the year that was the 50th anniversary of Opening Day at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's 20th century color line by starting at first base for the Dodgers.
Thanks to a suggestion by future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., every player now wears the number 42 on April 15. (I'm glad I'm not an inexperienced official scorer on that day.)
This year I decided shortly before Apr 15 to visit the newly opened Jackie Robinson Museum on 75 Varick Street in downtown Manhattan at the corner of Canal Street not far from the Holland Tunnel. (Varick is the extension of 7th Avenue South).
The modern 20,000 square foot museum is well-equipped with all kinds of devices that bring to life the story of Robinson's event-filled 53 years as ballplayer and civil rights pioneer. They should especially appeal to the youngsters who may have just heard the name of Robinson in a book.
Robinson received many letters from admirers who were awed by his courage. Among the more traditional exhibits was a letter to "dearest Jackie" that came from a sophomore in a segregated high school in Johnson City, Tennessee. He wrote his hero that he was following his every move, he was playing first base, and hoped to one day follow in his footsteps at UCLA. (Of course, Robinson only
played first base in 1947 and then moved to second and later third base.)
A museum visitor can also click a button and watch such notable people as pitcher Carl Erskine - who at 95 is the oldest of Robinson's surviving teammates - tell the story of how Jackie "literally changed the face of America." He calls it "a piece of history I was glad to see."
(For more on Carl Erskine's remarkable life story, check out "The Best We've Got," Indianapolis film maker Ted Green's full-length documentary now available on DVD. It is narrated by Long Island native Charlie Steiner, LA Dodgers broadcaster and former Yankees broadcaster.)
As a Branch Rickey biographer, I was glad that letters from Rickey and Robinson are exhibited that show the genuine paternal relationship that existed between the two Type-A personalities who changed the face of baseball and this country.
The Jackie Robinson Museum is open Thursday through Sundays from 11-6 PM. I highly recommend a visit.
PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON THE SEASON SO FAR:
As for the first few weeks of the 2023 baseball-history-in-the-making, the old adage remains very true. You can't win a pennant in April, but you sure can lose one this early even during a time when 12 of 30 teams make the post-season.
I have been increasingly concerned about the disparity between haves and have-nots in today's MLB. 2022 was the first year in MLB history that four teams finished with 100 or more wins AND four finished with 100 or more losses.
I have doubts that there will be that many 100 game winners in 2023, but the outlook sure looks grim for Royals, Nats, Rockies, and especially A's who seem destined for Las Vegas. It's one thing to support the short season of football and a longer but not baseball-long hockey season. That MLB will be
successful in Las Vegas is hardly a slam dunk.
As an Oriole fan, I am happy that before games on Friday Apr 21, we are four games over .500 which is where we finished 2022. It will all come down to pitching and defense and just enough offense for Baltimore and all teams.
I will have more to say about 2023 developments in MLB and on the college baseball front in the
next post. Also I'll share some highlights from the round of interviews I've been doing for my new book on scouting. You can order BASEBALL'S ENDANGERED SPECIES on the main page of this blog.
That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and these days especially remember:
Stay positive, test negative.