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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jackie Robinson Day

This day is a wonderful occasion  supported by Major League Baseball  to yearly recognize the life and contribution to baseball of Jackie Robinson. This we need to remember. For people like myself who is old enough to remember some of the early years of the integration of baseball and the outstanding African American players whose play we admired and celebrated,  who is interested in history, particularly,. American history and the black experience and  knows first hand the progress North  American has made in overcoming institutional racism. this occasion might  not be necessary.  Given the limited way history is taught and how easily events fade into the past, this day is an opportunity to remember  a time of real progress in sport and culture.

Jackie Robinson's story is an inspirational one. His life was lived always resisting the racism he faced. He is best know for his role in baseball. He was chosen to be the pointy end of the spear  which opened up baseball to black players.  He was a great player  which help the cause of the integration of baseball, by winning over fans. After baseball he was a successful business person and continued to resist racism in the US. all his life.

I think about a lot of things associated with baseball this day.  Jackie Robinson's life and sports career foremost. There is also Canada's role in the career of Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball, for which we have some reasons to be proud.  I think also of the men who supported him included the like of Branch Rickey, who chose him to take on the difficult task of being the first back player in major league baseball. recognizing that he was not only a great player but a man of character, Leo Durocher who challenged the player who resisted playing with Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, who openly befriended Robinson and helped him through trying times and the governors of  major league baseball who stood up to teams that threatened to not play against the Dodgers if Robinson played. For years many of the owners of major league baseball were deeply racist. The time to overcome this was long past.  I also think of the black community in the US, which loved baseball. The teams of the Negro League were one black institution that unified their communities.  For the sake of the integration of baseball the black community game up it's beloved league.

Canada was a different culture than the United States, prior to the integration of baseball.  We certainly had our share of racism and even some institutional forms of racism but as a culture Canada was more accepting of ethnic minorities. Certainly our laws mostly opposed  racism.  Baseball has a long history in Canada, going back to the 1880's.  The first game of baseball was played near St. Mary's Ontario, which is one of the reasons the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is in that town. Minor Professional baseball had flourished for many years as teams and league came and went. Black players throughout its history had played for Canadian teams. US black players came north to play for Canadian teams along with Afro Canadian players.  After the integration of baseball black players from the defunct negro league came north to finish out their careers. Many went to the Western Canadian league.

The International League, a Triple AAA minor professional league was the most successful.  There were great teams Some are listed on the MiLB list of 100 top teams. The Toronto Maple Leaf team is listed five times.

It is no mystery as to who Jackie Robinson was sent to the Montreal Royal Triple AAA team to prepare him to join the Dodgers.  Canadians can be proud to how the Robinson's were treated in Canada. Montreal embraced them and they lived for that difficult year in an atmosphere without the racism they experienced in the US. particularly in Florida, during the spring training.  The Robinson's always spoke gratefully of their treatment in Montreal.  Black players were not novel for the Royals team. They has had black players before, in fact there were two other black players on the team with Robinson.

There is a rich history of baseball in Canada. In particular, there is a history to learn about of wonderful black players who played on Canadian teams.

This is a statue to Jackie Robinson in Montreal, outside the Olympic Stadium.  I like this because it shows Robinson humanity and the admiration of a couple of children for him.

This statue recall the incident when Jackie Robinson was being verbally abused from the stands and Pee Wee Reese put his arm around him in support. 


At 9:01 a.m., Blogger Owen Gray said...

My father moved us around a lot until we settled in Montreal when I was 12. For three years we lived in Los Angeles.

We were there in 1957, when the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Jackie had retired by then. But lots of Negro players -- like Jim Gilliam, Johnny Roseboro and Maury Wills -- replaced him.

When we arrived in Montreal, I couldn't have been happier to learn that Jackie had been there, too.

Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At 3:02 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I am happy that Canada and my former home town played such a role. I think you probably been "Montreal embraced" rather than "Montreal embarrassed."

At 6:33 p.m., Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Thanks for the correction AC. I suspect French caused some static in my English. I must have had the French, "embrasser" in mind, (to wrap your arms around, to kiss).

At 3:12 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Thanks (again) for the mini-history lesson. While I certainly know that baseball exists in Canada, I didn't know the extent that you recount.
Having grown up out of the North American mainland, I didn't learn about Jackie Robinson until later in my life. He must have been a most remarkable and disciplined man to endure the mindless hatred that is fueled by racism.
Thank goodness there are such men and women--we are all better for their lives having been lived with such grace and aplomb.


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