While honoring MLK, also remember Robinson

Leave a comment

JackieRobinson_v.standard[1].jpgAs everyone takes the time to honor Martin Luther King today, let’s also take a moment to remember Jackie Robinson, was breaking down racial barriers before King sparked the Civil Rights movement.

Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945. Two years later, he would break the Major League’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, go on to build a 10-year Hall of Fame career and inspire countless others to follow in his footsteps.

But his impact went beyond baseball. Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City tries to put it all into perspective in an interview with MLB.com.

At its core, it was a Civil Rights story because the Negro Leagues would give us Jackie Robinson, who was obviously one of America’s greatest heroes,” Kendrick said. “What the museum does is somewhat boldly make the assertion that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just an important part of the Civil Rights movement, but [it] actually signaled the beginning of what we believe to be the modern Civil Rights movement in this country.”

Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey in 1945 and soon made history in the Majors.

“We’re talking 1947, and this was before Brown v. Board of Education and before Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of the bus and, as we relate to Dr. King, he was only a sophomore at Morehouse when Robinson signed his contract to play with Brooklyn in 1945,” Kendrick said.

We won’t give a complete recap of Robinson’s history, though this isn’t a bad place to start if you’re not familiar with his story.

He didn’t just break baseball’s color barrier, he did it with dignity and class, and Martin Luther King carried himself in a similar manner while sparking the Civil Rights movement. Both men have stood as a golden standard for others to follow. (Just ask Hall of Famer Dave Winfield)

So when pondering the impact of King, don’t forget Jackie Robinson, whose impact carried far beyond sports.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

5 Comments

There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.