April 15 has a lot going on — it’s tax day and Patriot’s Day — but in baseball it’s most significant because it’s Jackie Robinson Day. Sixty-six years ago today Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era.
Players will wear 42 on their jerseys today. Just about every columnist you read will have a remembrance or retrospective of the man today. Even if you’ve read a lot of these and know the general story, you should take some extra time to reacquaint yourself with it again. Or, maybe even better, go check out Jackie’s Baseball-Reference.com page. I sometimes feel like we spend so much time on talking about Robinson’s breaking the color barrier that we forget he was a hell of a baseball player and would have been Hall of Fame worthy regardless.
Also worth checking out are some things about Robinson’s post-playing career, which includes a lot of important work in the civil rights movement and which is often overlooked. Here’s a nice start to that.
Robinson was a complex and interesting man and that often gets lost as so much time is spent on the well-known and well-told partys of his story.
Happy 42 Day.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.