The Michigan Daily -Wednesday, April 15, 1987-- Page 11
Tip of the Kap
BY RICK KAPLAN
Unhappy 40th anniversary
An anniversary is supposed to be a happy event - a celebration of a
historic moment in the past.
Unfortunately, today's anniversary gives no cause for frivolity. It
serves merely as a reminder of the long road that lies ahead.
Forty years ago today, Jackie Robinson became the first Black player
in major league baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers signed the infielder to a
big league contract for $5,000, and on April 15, 1947, Robinson's debut
changed race relations in America.
Or did it?
BREAKING baseball's color barrier was a landmark occurrence.
Blacks across the nation watched with pride as Robinson played with the
whites, and played well. But Blacks weren't the only people watching.
White bigotry against No. 42 was rampant. Robinson was barraged with
racist slurs, and regularly received death threats. As he proved he could
compete with the white players, though, the attacks become less
"The Robinson Experiment," in its original sense, was a success.
Many Black players joined Robinson, most notably on the Dodgers,
where Blacks Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella made Brooklyn a
ational League power.
The man behind Brooklyn's breakthrough was general manager Branch
Rickey. Thirty years earlier, Rickey coached the University of Michigan
baseball team while attending the law school. Rickey's tenure at
Michigan from 1910-13 was just a stepping stone in his career, but his
predilection toward change was evident even then. He was the first
college baseball coach to take his team to the South for spring training, a
common practice today.
RICKEY moved to the major leagues. At St. Louis, he developed
the modern farm system. Rickey bought several minor league teams,
giving him a large pool of talent from which to choose. Ironically,
jealous opponents called Rickey's players his "slaves." Soon, every team
had a farm system.
In early 1947, Rickey plotted his greatest innovation: breaking the
color barrier. He proposed the move in a meeting of the major league
teams, but lost the vote, 15-1. New baseball commissioner Happy
Chandler sided with the Dodgers, though, and refused to stop Rickey
from signing Robinson.
After Rickey completed a thorough search, Robinson was chosen for
the mission. Rickey wanted a talented athlete, but more importantly, he
needed a strong-willed individual. Rickey's orders to Robinson were
explicit: turn the other cheek. If Robinson had fought with the racist
opponents who spiked him and verbally abused him, he likely would
have become the last Black major leaguer. Racists would say that Blacks
were not able to play with the whites, that they were troublemakers.
Being aggressive and argumentative by nature, Robinson had trouble
restraining himself, but he did. He truly talked softlyand carried a big
BLACKS did stick in the majors, and for years, the nation viewed
baseball as a paragon of complete integration. The Dodgers, after all, had
integrated baseball seven years before the Supreme Court integrated
public schools with Brown v. Board of Education.
Last week, the truth about baseball came out. The national pastime
badly needs corporate bussing.
Dodger vice president Al Campanis brought the issue to prominence.
On national television, he expressed a shockingly racist opinion on why
baseball has so few Blacks in management.
Campanis lost his job. The public breathed a little easier. But the
disease remains. The cancer of racism still lives deep in'the heart of the
There is a cure, but it requires slow and repeated treatment. Blacks
must be hired as minor league coaches and managers, front office
managers, and umpires. Baseball must achieve the same equality off the
field that Robinson and Rickey helped achieve on the field.
The Dodgers could start by hiring a Black to replace Campanis.
Perhaps his replacement will be a pioneer: the Jackie Robinson of the
Racism must strike out. Forty years from today, we could celebrate
Forty years ago today, Jackie Robinson (far right) became the first Black to play in the major leagues during the modern era. Shown with
Robinson in this 1947 photo are the rest of the Brooklyn Dodgers starting infielders: from left, John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, and Ed
by Navy s
WASHINGTON (AP) - Navy
Secretary James H. Webb reversed a
decision of his predecessor Tuesday
and ruled that young naval officers
will not receive any "special
accommodation" in the future to
play pro sports.
Webb said, however, he decided
basketball star David Robinson had
previously been given a firm
commitment that Webb would not
Webb's predecessor had ruled
that Robinson had grown too tall
during his four years at the academy
to serve as an "unrestricted line"
officer and thus would be expected
to serve only two years on active
Webb said he would insist that
graduates of the Naval Academy
fulfill their responsibilities as naval
officers on a full-time basis.
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