In Honor of Jackie…

In honor of Jackie Robinson… Albert Pujols hit two taters to help the Cardinals kill the Brewers.

In honor of Jackie Robinson… CC Sabathia struck out ten White Sox, leading the Indians over Chicago

In honor of Jackie Robinson…Both of the Joneses hammered taters to defeat the Fish

And so on, and so forth, etc, ad nauseum. Everything done yesterday, was done, apparently, in honor of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball in the spring of 1947. Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the event, and every 10 years, Major League Baseball likes to trot out Jackie Robinson Day celebrations. 10 years ago Bud Selig decreed that no one would ever wear Jackie’s number, 42, again. Yankees’ pitcher Mariano Rivera was allowed to continue wearing 42, being grandfathered into the position. Now, for the 60th anniversary, they’re letting everyone wear the number. Just for the day, of course, but, still, anyone who wants to can suit up in the number worn by one of the most important players to ever play the game.

This thing started when Ken Griffey, Jr. asked Jackie’s widow, as well as Bud Selig, for permission to wear 42 as a tribute. They both gave the “okay”, and suddenly everyone else was jumping in. Virtually every black player, as well as entire teams were joining the act. What started out as a cool idea by one player became a watered down, meaningless tribute.

Rob Neyer, of ESPN, wrote in his blog of another idea:

Here’s what I propose: Bring No. 42 back. But reserve it for veterans who uphold the highest standards of conduct and show at least some general familiarity with the game’s history and some specific knowledge of the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson’s contribution to the game. With the number comes a small insignia, perhaps a cursive JR in the style of Robinson’s signature. Oh, and here’s something terribly important: An aspiring No. 42er’s skin color should not be a factor. At all.

Frankly, I love the idea. Getting the chance to wear No. 42 would be like winning the Roberto Clemente Award, except that award is on display every day of the baseball season. Players could use it as incentive for good behavior. A guy like Jim Thome, perhaps, or Jamie Moyer might be eligible, and a good candidate.

Don’t hide 42 by taking it off every uniform, and don’t water down its importance by putting it on the back of anyone who wants it. Give it to baseball best and brightest, and let them wear it with pride.

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