In reflecting on MLB’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, I must tip my hat to Commissioner Bud Selig. First, for twice getting it right in celebrating this great man in the past 10 years.
In 1997, Bud Selig retired the number 42 across the board in MLB. Today, the only player who’s assigned that number is Mariano Rivera. Rivera wore that number in 1997 and will be the last to be assigned that number. For those of us who’ve watched Rivera’s career, you would probably agree that someone as great as he should shut it down on number 42.
On Sunday, hundreds of players donned the number 42 to honor a man who truly meant so much to so many. Jackie Robinson’s efforts did not just effect blacks, it effected the world. Robinson opened the doors to baseball and sports to everyone.
That’s why I was pretty surprised to hear that some players in MLB thought by having so many people wearing Jackie Robinson’s number would diminish the efforts of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Torii Hunter.
First of all, allowing players to wear number 42 on that day takes nothing away from what Jackie Robinson did, just like allowing only Griffey and Hunter to wear the number adds anything to his efforts.
Jackie Robinson did great things for human rights. We should be honored that blacks and whites want to wear the number 42 to honor Robinson. I would like to take it one step further. All of baseball should have worn the number. No, I don’t think anything less of anyone who didn’t want to wear it, but I believe that by complaining, it probably chased some away who wanted to wear it.
I get it, Jackie Robinson was black, so black players should wear the number, and he played for the Dodgers, so they should wear the number. But if someone else doesn’t belong in either of those categories, they belong in the category of human beings. Jackie Robinson wanted blacks to be treated like human beings and not be singled out.
So, thank you Bud Selig for allowing baseball to become what Jackie Robinson fought so hard for. On a day that we are supposed to honor him; we shouldn’t go against what he stood for by not allowing some to honor him.