Sunday, April 15 is officially Jackie Robinson Day. It marks the 60th.
anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in major league baseball.
Major league baseball will reactivate Robinson’s retired number 42 on April 15. One person on every major league team will be given the privilege and honor of wearing Jackie’s famous number for that one day. Except for the Dodgers, I'm now told; in their game against San Diego on Sunday, every player on the Dodgers will be wearing number 42.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig had originally granted permission to wear the number 42 to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who had called him with the request, and then proceeded to allow 30 people to honor his memory in this special way.
For Willie Randolph, a boy growing up in Brooklyn who became the first African-American manager in New York, there is no greater honor. “I said I’d have to fight whoever to get to wear number 42,” Randolph said. “Anything associated with Jackie Robinson is an honor for me, and it will be a very special day for me to wear his number 42.”
In 1997, Robinson’s number was retired throughout baseball, but Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera is still permitted to wear number 42 because he had been wearing it before the announcement.
Joe Morgan made a very salient point on ESPN Tuesday. He said that as great as Jackie Robinson was, we’ll never know how great he could have been had he not had the incredible and constant pressure, both on and off the field, that he was forced to live with daily. Keith Olbermann chose Jackie as the greatest athlete of the 20th. century on his 12-31-2000 telecast, and was kind enough to send me the video of that show. And everyone who knows me knows my feelings about Jackie Robinson.
On April 15, every ballpark in the majors will feature a commemorative ceremony honoring Jackie Robinson. And I know ESPN for one plans to honor Jackie on Sunday, so check your local television programming.
Story of the Week
THE IMPORTANCE OF MLB MANAGERS
I’m actually writing this feature on 9-28-06. Yes, some of my feature stories are written well before they’re published, but I knew I’d have fun with this one, and I had to do it while it was fresh in my mind. Read on.
Colin Cowherd is a knowledgeable and funny man. I listen to his ESPN radio show whenever possible. I heard it today. Cowherd compared the manager of a major league baseball team to the groom at a wedding when it comes to his importance in the scheme of things. According to Colin:
Wedding: 1=Bride. 2=Bride’s mother. 3=Bride’s father. 4=Wedding planner.
5=Bridal party. 6=Ceremony official. 7=Groom.
MLB Team: 1=Owner. 2=General Manager. 3=Scouts. 4=Pitching coach.
5=Pitching staff. 6=Rest of the team. 7=Manager.
(I will note what Cowherd failed to point out in his lineup above. Due to the stupid DH rule in the AL, the MLB manager is far less important in that league than he is in the NL. AL managers make far fewer value decisions.)
How did all this start? Colin quoted Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa as stating that he doesn’t live at home during the summer months because he can’t afford the distractions, as managing a baseball team is so consuming. That’s when he took off on the comparative unimportance of a MLB manager. Per Cowherd, if a team has the players, the manager looks good, and if the talent on the team is virtually non-existent, he’s a bum. To a major degree, that is true, but................
As I listened to Cowherd’s discourse (he is known to overdo a point now and again), I determined to stop laughing at his comparative examples, and objectively evaluate the point. I don’t agree with Colin regarding the value of a baseball field boss. A baseball manager, any manager of anything, has to set the tone for winning, production, etc. That manager has to be a motivator, a teacher, and an example to his team. But, yes, he had best have some horses to ride through 162 games in the regular season, or he’ll be home in October watching the money games on television.
The greatest job of motivation by a MLB manager came from Leo Durocher in 1951. His New York Giants were 13.5 games out of first place in mid-August and caught the Brooklyn Dodgers to force the most famous MLB playoff ever, and the Giants won it and went to the World Series. Durocher personally caused his team’s success in 1951; he simply wouldn’t let them cave in. Conversely, Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen did a horrendous job as he allowed his team to blow an unthinkable lead. The point is that Durocher, the manager, was the most important member of his team. Cowherd failed to discuss 1951, but I won’t. (Leo Durocher is my all-time favorite baseball manager.)
Cowherd also failed to discuss Casey Stengel; this would have made his point. As manager of the Yankees, he was the quintessential winner. When he managed the Mets, he couldn’t score with a hooker with a fistful of hundreds. The Yankees had the players; the Mets did not! Taking this into account, Stengel is the ultimate example Colin should use in his argument.
However, the 1960 World Series refutes Cowherd's opinion. Casey could have started Whitey Ford in Game One, thus getting three games out of Ford. He didn’t, and Ford was unavailable for Game Seven and the loss to Pittsburgh. It was a major Stengel blunder. (Ford pitched two complete game shutouts in that series, namely Games Three and Six.)
Now for the importance of a groom. If you’re a guy about to be married, try like hell to simply understand that this is her day, and you’re nothing but 7th. from the top. But all is not lost; on your wedding night, hopefully, you’ll be on top!
Last Week’s Trivia
The movie, The Harder They Fall, was loosely based on the career of fighter
Carnera unsuccessfully sued the film's makers,
claiming it damaged his reputation for implying that he was involved in fixed
fights. Carnera's career is one of the biggest mysteries in boxing, as many of
the sport's historians believe that, without Carnera's knowledge, his managers
paid most of his opponents to throw their fights. Fight fans should see this
outstanding motion picture that starred Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only man to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium? (Incredibly, he did it twice.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.