On April 15, 1997, I was a 13-year-old boy obsessed with baseball. Luckily for my brother and me, our father's employer had seats at Shea Stadium and we were able to attend many Mets games throughout our formative years.
That specific night was the inaugural celebration of Jackie Robinson's Major League Baseball Day, 50 years after Robinson broke the color barrier of baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were in town, starting a two-game series with the organization that gave a 28-year-old man the opportunity to not only showcase his skills at the highest level but also pave the way for multiple generations of Africans . – American ball players, as well as other colored players from several Latin American countries.
The Mets beat Los Angeles that night, riding five scoreless innings of Armando Reynoso and a 2 for 4, four runs run from center fielder Lance Johnson to a 5-0 victory, advancing to 4-9 in the junior season.
But the details of game number 13 of 162 was not what resonated with fans of all ages that night. The presence of a series of dignitaries (baseball and mundane) and the feeling that something bigger than the baseball game was happening here was clearly evident, even for an 8th grader.
President Bill Clinton spoke with the inhabitants of the Big Shea fans on that beautiful Tuesday night, eloquently referring to the effect of Jackie Robinson on the sacred institution of Major League Baseball, as well as its effect on humanity in general. .
"It's hard to believe that it was 50 years ago that a 28-year-old rookie changed the face of baseball and America forever," Clinton said. New York Times. "Jackie Robinson scored the breakthrough that day, we've all been trying to catch up since then, if Jackie Robinson were here today, I would say we've done a lot of good in the last 50 years, but we could do much better."
Those words, for an impressionable young man, touched me. He was well versed in the history of baseball, but he was just beginning to explore the history of American civil rights beyond the basics of elementary school.
Jackie Robinson became the intersection I needed to begin that search for knowledge. I had known about Jackie Robinson, the ball player. You know I wanted to know about Jackie Robinson, the man.
So I read the heartbreaking accounts of systematic and racially charged abuse that Robinson and hundreds of colored players endured for decades playing in the big leagues, as well as the generation of players who played in the Black Leagues.
The talent that Jackie Robinson possessed allowed him to tear down the walls that had segregated the game for so long. But Jackie Robinson's makeup as a human being was what allowed him to become the pioneer who united this game and this country.
I will never forget the lesson the story of Jackie Robinson told me. I suggest you go out and find one that resonates with you as well.