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May 08, 2006 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-05-08

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VIEWPOINT
No time to think

The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 8, 2006 - 5
Branch Rickey: forgotten American hero
JOHN STIGLICH STKIY SAYS

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BY ADAM SOCLOF title. Far too often, headlines are
scoured over the web as people
whole, Theresa Kennelly's race to generate the most current
last week (Trying to care, and accurate quantitative account
006) was of great inter- of the day's events. In conversa-
ie. The apparent dearth of tion, I've found that people are
an empathy with respect to less conscious about the trauma
conflicts is troubling. At incurred by an act of violence than
e time, placing the blame they are about transmitting the cor-
phenomenon squarely upon rect death toll - and occasionally,
ia is incorrect because the gasping. Whether or not an event
is not solely responsible is reported adequately is indepen-
tendency to relate best to dent of our ability to process that
hat affect us personally. information appropriately.
Sunday, I was part of the How, then, can someone over-
Community Council's del- come the two greatest barriers to
of high school students, understanding genocide - prop-
students and Detroit-area erly empathizing with a single
who attended the "Save instance of brutality and better
rally in Washington D.C. understanding the large scale on
distressed region of Dar- which these brutalities occur?
ich lies in western Sudan, Addressing the problem of quan-
e local Arab and non-Arab tifying large numbers was docu-
vith the aid of the Sudanese mented in the 2004 film "Paper
nent have collaborated in Clips," in which a Tennessee mid-
truction and displacement dIe school solicited contributions
im and other ethnic villag- of millions of paper clips to truly
ile the statistics have been understand the number of people
- 3.5 million starving, 2.5 who perished in the Holocaust.
displaced, 400,000 killed - But back to my initial problem: At
still unfathomable to me. what point should I consider myself
ng been raised in one of empathetic, informed or quali-
an's safest cities, I can- fied enough to take action against
mprehend the effects of a atrocities? One week after the rally,
murder or rape, nor do I I hope to never be qualified in any
and how people from back- of these respects, because I remain
similar to mine can only convinced that, short of personal
audible gasps upon hear- or familial experience, one cannot
uch things. The sole native know the trauma wrought by such
an whom I spoke to at the atrocity. At the rally, I saw and
- who immigrated to New heard celebrities, religious lead-
st two years ago - did not ers and even survivors themselves
r himself or his family (still speak in succession. While each
ur) to be endangered. He speaker drew upon verbal or photo-
ed that his family is from graphic testimony of death to vary-
and it is only people from ing degrees, they were not striving
ages who are in danger. for mass empathy - they were
Darfurian can live so close demanding mass action.
cide and not be personally For anyone who wavers about
I by it, imagine being sepa- being active in calling for or person-
thousands of miles, several ally taking action in Darfur, there
odes of wealth and religion isn't enough time to be self-conscious
he victims. How could I about what you know or how to relate
a rally against genocide to what you've heard. By all means,
inderstanding genocide? continue to read and gather informa-
ite self-consciousness sur- tion on your own. But when people
g my capacity to under- you trust or admire tell you how hor-
'hat Darfurian refugees are rible the situation is, you ought to
acing, I don't foresee the believe them. And then, if someone
edia being able to help me. else asks you exactly how horrible it
ge of information" - fre- is, you may settle for "I don't quite
tapped as the epithet for know ... but horrible enough."

It's become
conventional
wisdom that
Jackie Robinson
broke baseball's color
barrier alone. In the
past decade, Major
League Baseball has
reinforced this notion
by retiring Robinson's
uniform number (42), renaming its rookie
of the year awards in his honor and dedicat-
ing April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day. Make
no mistake, Robinson forever belongs in
boxes highlighting heroes in American
history books, but such tokens of heroism
from MLB fail to highlight the actions of
another American hero - the University's
own Branch Rickey.
So now you ask,"Who the hell is Branch
Rickey?" Rickey managed the Michigan
baseball team from 1910-1913 and earned
a degree from the University's law school.
At the professional level, he is known for
developing the minor league farm system,
requiring his players to wear protective
batting helmets and holding annual train-
ing camps in the spring. Most importantly,
though, Rickey was the Brooklyn Dodgers
executive who signed Jackie Robinson to a
major-league contract.
Still,you won't find his name in too many
history books. A search of the NAACP
website returns no hits. Sometime in the
last 50 years, history inexplicably lost sight
of Rickey's contributions to civil rights.
The major league talent pool post-
World War II paled in comparison to
that of the previous two decades. Base-
ball executives traveled across the coun-

try looking for the next Babe Ruth or Ty
Cobb - so long as the players shared
Ruth and Cobb's skin color.
Branch Rickey, on the other hand,
thought outside of the box and scouted
The Negro Leagues, which had developed
independently outside the major leagues to
allow black players to showcase their tal-
ents. What he saw there were star athletes
whose only apparent vice was the color of
their skin. Motivated by a taste for social
justice and a desire to make the Dodgers
competitive again, Rickey decided to vio-
late baseball's unwritten rule that prohib-
ited integration. On Aug. 28, 1945, Rickey
signed Robinson to a minor-league con-
tract, becoming the first MLB executive to
sign a black player.
After dominating in the minor league-
level International League in 1946, Rob-
inson dressed for his first National League
game on April 15, 1947. Together, he and
Rickey faced an uphill battle. If Robinson
succeededinthemajors,it wouldencourage
other baseball executives to sign black play-
ers and, in the process, destroy baseball's
color barrier. If Robinson failed, however,
segregationists would claim victory, and
both men would be out of a job.
As history shows, Robinson continued
his dominance at the major-league level by
leading the Dodgers to the World Series in
his first year and winning baseball's first
Rookie of the Year award. When Cleve-
land Indians executive Bill Veeck signed
Larry Doby and Satchel Paige - thereby
integrating the American League the fol-
lowing season - baseball's color barrier
rightfully headed down the path to per-
manent extinction.

Rickey's quest for social justice, how-
ever, was not finished.
Rickey left the Dodgers for the Pitts-
burgh Pirates and drafted baseball's first
Hispanic player - Puerto Rico's Roberto
Clemente - in 1954. Despite a great deal
of controversy, Rickey replaced popular
incumbent right fielder Sid Gordon with
Clemente, who would go down as one of
the game's most celebrated Hall of Fam-
ers. With scouts for the Pirates and other
clubs flooding Latin America looking for
talent, another one of baseball's racial bar-
riers was toppled.
Branch Rickey's plaque at the Baseball
Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY does
not do his legacy justice.It reads: "Founder
of the farm system for St. Louis Cardi-
nals and Brooklyn Dodgers. Copied by all
other major league teams. Served as exec-
utive for the Browns, Cardinals, Dodgers
and Pirates. Brought Jackie Robinson to
Brooklyn in 1947"
Rickey's plaque hangs with the Hall of
Fame's class of 1967 andunlike Robinson's
plaque, it receives no special attention from
visitors. Currently, the most prestigious
award given in Rickey's honor - The
Branch Rickey Humanitarian Award - is
awarded not by Major League Baseball but
by the Denver Rotary Club. Rickey has a
spot on the St. Louis Walk of Fame but not
at Dodger Stadium's Wall of Fame.
What shockingly inadequate remem-
brance for a man whose legacy embodies
all that is good about the civil rights move-
ment, our nation and its pastime.
Stiglich can be reached at
jcsgolf@umich.edu.

Vote for my bakesale
CHRISTINA HILDRETH WEI.COME TO MY BUBiB LE

ld in which we live - is
fitting yet very misleading

Soclof is an LSA senior.

ile on
a trip to
Cuba last
February, I lost my
right to assemble.
There, in Fidel
Castro's land -
where social gath-
erings without the
government's per-
mission are outlawed - sitting squished
between two middle-aged women intently
listening to a sermon in a small house-
church, I realized the privilege of Ameri-
can political activists. It dawned on me as
if it were some wonderful secret that every-
one already knew. In the United States, we
have the freedom to assemble in protest of
our government, and for the first time in
my life, I realized the value of this oft-for-
gotten first-amendment right.
On the way home, I contemplated sev-
eral of the great protests of our nation's his-
tory - like the civil rights marches of the
1960s and the rallies against the Vietnam
War in the 1970s. These were the headlines
of my parents' generation, but when I tried
to think of similar assemblies in my years,
I came up short.
These days, it takes a great deal more to
motivate a college student to march in pro-
test.Political activismis no longer sexy. Even
with the recent bout of nationwide marches,
students have largely stayed home.
For the 21st century's 20-somethings,
the passion for political activism has been
usurped by the lure of community service.

Bono and Invisible Children have made
global health disparities and humanitarian
crises the cool causes of the decade. Even
bake sales to help a local charity are now
the thing to do.
Even as interest in politics continually
declines among our age cohortinvolvement
in service organizations is steadily increas-
ing. More than 70 percent of incoming col-
lege freshmen in 2005 said they had done
community service at least once a week in
high school, according to an annual sur-
vey by the University of California at Los
Angeles. College students do everything
from cleaning up after hurricanes to tutor-
ing inmates to make an impact.
The question, of course, is whether all of
this is a good thing. As many of today's stu-
dents hang up their parents' political gloves
and step instead into service, will this help
our generation make a bigger mark on the
world than our parents?
Don't get me wrong - the service efforts
of students are much needed, and the new
wave of humanitarianism is poised to reach
incredible heights in battling disease and
poverty. These are all good outcomes, but
the betterment of the human race cannot
wholly be done on the backs of NGOs and
community-service organizations.
There are some things that cannot be
achieved through service alone but must
instead be fought for. Lawmakers must be
coaxed into legislating environments that
eradicate inequality and bring about pros-
perity. Without this action, all the char-
ity in the world won't bring the poor out

of poverty or the sick into health. Just ask
aid workers in a place like Haiti or Darfur.
Not surprisingly, most oppressive govern-
ments will not reform themselves unless a
loud voice demands change. Even in liberal
democracies like the United States, politi-
cal change often needs the impetus of a
coalition of concerned citizens.
This is precisely why students' conspicu-
ous absence from recent rallies is troubling.
Political movements need young adultseto be
loud,to prove to those in power that the resis-
tance won't go away in future generations.
But it seems we students aren't even
slightly interested. The same UCLA sur-
vey showed that only one-third of entering
freshmen feel it's important to even keep up
with politics, let alone take actual action.
We flock in droves to night-long fund-
raisers to help little kids recuperate (not
a bad thing in itself), but ask us to work a
petition drive or lobby to increase health
care subsidies to those same families and,
apparently, we are too busy, tired, broke or
just plain apathetic.
Social justice is a noble cause, and the
hundreds of thousands of students who dedi-
cate their college careers to service are cer-
tainly not wasting their time. But we cannot
divorce ourselves from our political respon-
sibilities, and we must not be naive when it
comes to creating sustainable change. Some-
times it is appropriate to take to the streets
- and we shouldn't be afraid to do it.
Hildreth can be reached at
childret@umich.edu.

STEPHEN BUSCH'

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