Chat: Jackie Robinson Night
So, use the form below to send your question to this list of guest and check back Sunday night for a special Q&A from the ceremony.
Amy Nelson (7:40 PM)
Hi everyone I'm here live from Dodger Stadium. I talked to a bunch of people before the game and wanted to share some answers with you.
Amy Nelson (7:43 PM)
We've received a lot of questions and I was able to catch up with some dignitaries. It's been a lively day here already; when I first walked into Dodger Stadium I heard Jennifer Hudson practicing the National Anthem and it was incredible. Off to some of your questions ...
Tom Hrynik, Royal Oak, MIfirstname.lastname@example.org
In my opinion, Jackie Robinson is the greatest athlete of all time. And baseball was his 4th best sport, in which he made the HOF. Do you agree?
Amy Nelson (7:56 PM)
Here's an answer from Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter ...
Sharon Robinson (7:58 PM)
My father was from early childhood was a talented athlete. Probably the legend we heard, we heard stories from preschool when he was going to school with his sister and when the kids discovered what a good athlete he was they were giving my father their lunch to play on their team.
Sharon Robinson (8:00 PM)
He went to the Kansas City Monarchs and I'm sure he got a lot of development there. When he got to the negro leagues he took that talent and they indoctrinated him with that form of play -- perfecting stealing home and a more aggressive style of play.
How can a fan who is passionate about the game of baseball do to help young kids growing up discover their passion for baseball. Will the MLB have programs available that a fan such as myself help in contributing the opportunity for kids to join baseball programs within the community?
Amy Nelson (8:02 PM)
Myron: This was one of the biggest issues talked about today. There were various answers from many people. I'll give you Sharon Robinson's first. And will come back to more as we go along.
Amy Nelson (8:04 PM)
My father had such passion. One of my favortie scenes of him playing baseball was when he is at third base getting ready to steal home. His face was just filled with glee. If you can instill that in children -- in any sport -- then that is a huge achievement.
Amy Nelson (8:05 PM)
Just an update from Dodger Stadium, they just showed a Jackie Robinson tribute video montage and we are about to hear a gospel choir sing, with all of the dignitaries lining the field.
Frank: What effect did Jackie have on your career and the way you looked at the game?
Amy Nelson (8:07 PM)
Jack: I haven't had a chance to see Frank yet, but I took your question and asked many people here today how Jackie inspired them.
Amy Nelson (8:09 PM)
Here is an answer from Rev. Jesse Jackson: My father played baseball, and in the offseason people like Jackie and Don Newcombe would do barnstroming tours. They would make so much money in the offseason because they stood out so much. My father played for the Greenville Blackspinners and seeing those players come in, that's how I drew inspiration from him.
Amy Nelson (8:11 PM)
Jackson also added he was a batboy in those days for Newcombe, and today he is here as a guest of the Robinson family.
Amy Nelson (8:13 PM)
As we go along tonight I will add tidbits from before the game, conversations I had with players and some of your comments or questions. And at times I may step away to transcribe some of the interviews or catch someone who walks by in the press box en route to our TV booth.
Amy Nelson (8:16 PM)
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully was just introduced to the crowd and got a huge ovation.
Amy Nelson (8:17 PM)
Both the Dodgers and Padres are at the top of their dugouts standing and applauding for Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow. Commissioner Bud Selig is introducing her now.
Amy Nelson (8:19 PM)
Vin Scully opened his remarks by saying, "I was privileged to spend seven years with Jackie Robinson, so you can understand this is an emotional moment for me."
Amy Nelson (8:21 PM)
Selig presented the Commissioner's historic achievement award to Rachel Robinson. AOnly 11 have been presented, and she is the first off the field. As Selig presented the award, both teams lined the first and third-base lines, respectively.
Amy Nelson (8:23 PM)
I spoke with Hudson just after 1 p.m. pacific time, and she told me about the honor of singing here today.
Jennifer Hudson (8:24 PM)
It's a dream come true for me because I always wanted to sing at a baseball game. Always. I grew up watching baseball with my grandmother. So it's very exciting.
Amy Nelson (8:25 PM)
I asked Hudson if she was aware of who Robinson was growing up.
Jennifer Hudson (8:26 PM)
Oh my God, yes. He's part of our history. Just to be a part of anything that is connected to him is an honor.
Jennifer Hudson (8:28 PM)
Oh my God, yes. He's a part of our history. Just to be a part of anything that is connected to him is an honor.
Amy Nelson (8:29 PM)
Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron threw out the first pitches, to Juan Pierre and Mike Cameron. Both Pierre and Cameron are wearing their socks up high and the number 42 on their backs. Cameron usually doesn't wear his socks up. Pretty cool image.
Amy Nelson (8:30 PM)
I spoke to a few players before the game about what it was like to see the jersey in their locker today. Pierre and Cameron both spoke about it.
Juan Pierre (8:32 PM)
It's special for me because it's basically the jersey Jackie Robinson wore, the Dodger jersey. You talk about it all week and you actually see the jersey here and that day is here, the one you'll be wearing. I think it's going to be a special day and a well-deserved day for Jackie Robinson and baseball.
Mike Cameron (8:33 PM)
I felt nice, really good. I knew it was going to be a special day. It almost feels like Opening Day.
Amy Nelson (8:33 PM)
Pierre told me a story about when he first started to appreciate Robinson.
Juan Pierre (8:34 PM)
I did a report on him in the third or fourth grade. I didn't know the whole gist of it (what he went through) and as you get older you realize he went through a lot of stuff.
Juan Pierre (8:36 PM)
And now that I'm playing professional baseball I realize he went through a whole lot of stuff and the stuff we go through today isn't nearly as bad as what he went through. I just try to go out there every day and be a good person both on and off the field.
Amy Nelson (8:37 PM)
Before the game Mike Cameron met with a group of kids from the San Diego YMCA. They took a bus here this morning and were on the field behind home plate duirng batting practice. Cameron and Dave Winfield met with the kids, signed gloves and T-shirts, and took photographs.
Amy Nelson (8:39 PM)
I asked some of the kids if they played baseball. Most said they just played catch with gloves out in the street, that they didn't have the other equipment. Some of the kids lived on Market street in downtown San Diego, and they said their favorite sport was football. They knew Cameron, and some liked Khalil Greene and Brian Giles, but they felt more connected to football. When one kid said he got his glove signed, he turned to one of his friends and said, "Not like I use it much."
Amy Nelson (8:40 PM)
I'll also be posting some of your comments as we go along.
Robin, Sparks, NV
My Aunt Janice Brooks and our family were personal friends of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, so I know of Jackie story first hand. Yet 60 years later I'm reliving his story thru my son Devin Carter. He's the only black on his Damonte Ranch Varsity high school baseball team. Every week we are forced to watch opportunity given to others when all he asked for is one chance. Baseball is truly a dying sport for blacks. We're not given an equal opportunity. What must he do to have his talent reconize?
Amy Nelson (8:45 PM)
Dave Winfield spoke about this at legth before the game. He said there is no official answer, no one answer as to why the numbers have declined even in the last decade.
Dave Winfield (8:49 PM)
I call it the three C's. Cost, continuity and competition. The cost of the game has increased, with money put into camps and little leagues and equipment. The continuity to play every year for your city or town. That continuity might not be there for kids once they reach age 12 or so. And the competition, the external competition of other sports. Baseball used to be the only game in town.
Dave Winfield (8:51 PM)
It's complex. There isn't one answer. My son plays in a pony league and there are six kids who have sore arms because they don't play catch anymore in between games. They don't practice.
Amy Nelson (8:52 PM)
Back to Jack's question above. I asked Winfield how he was inspired by Robinson.
Dave Winfield (8:53 PM)
I never met him, but I always knew who he was even though it was too early for him to be in the record books.
Dave Winfield (8:55 PM)
Jackie Robinson did something incredible. I was at the civil rights game and the museum and you look back and times were different. When he did what he did, 10, 15 years after that they were still lynching people.
Dave Winfield (8:57 PM)
Think of what he had to go through, how scary it was. If he would have fought back --- it really became more clear to me than ever -- people would have held up doing the right thing for another maybe 10 or 12 years. And they would have said, "See! That's the way they all are." It would have held up progress even longer.
Why not recognize the montreal royal game at roosevelt stadium,jersey city,on apr.18,1946.It also was historic?Thankyou,bill
Amy Nelson (9:00 PM)
Bill: Thanks for the question. A reader, coincidentally, wrote in about that game. Here is the anecdote.
Amy Nelson (9:00 PM)
Oh, my bad. Bill I have a feeling you wrote in twice. Here is the original post.
apr.18.1946.I attended a baseball game at Roosevelt stadium,jersey city,n.j.It was Jackie Robinsons 1st game after signing a Dodger contract.My memory of that game,as a 14 year old, was a game of sports history.I truly do not recall any racial expletives being yelled.Rather a game against our beloved Jersey City Giants,as wewerelosing badly.I hope in your celebration of Jackies moment in history,the game he played for the Montreal Royals on the preceeding date mentioned,should also be celebrated.He played one heck of a game.Thankyou Bill Van Leuven
Al Clapsaddle (Bronx, NY)
I don't have a question as much as an observation. I do not want to take anything away from Jackie Robinson, but I think we also need to express our thanks and admiration to Branch Rickey who saw the need to integrate baseball, saw the qualities needed in jackie and had the guts to actually play him. All of baseball and all of America owe a debt to Jackie and Branch.
Amy Nelson (9:04 PM)
Al: You were one of many people who wrote in about Branch Rickey. His grandson, Branch Rickey III was on the dignitary list. I asked Dodgers PR guru Josh Rawtich if he was present. Josh directed me to team historian Mark Langill who could not locate Mr. Rickey. I have to admit, I really had hoped to meet Mr. Rickey. Were it not for his grandfather, we would not be here on this night.
Amy Nelson (9:09 PM)
But my colleague, Cal Fussman, had a chance to interview Mr. Rickey. Cal's new book, "After Jackie," is a great read (and it's not just because we're colleagues). In it, Rickey III said that his grandfather's decision to sign Robinson was not on a whim or a quirk. Cal has Rickey's grandson recalling a shaping moment in his grandfather's life years earlier that perhaps set the foundation for Rickey making history with Robinson.
Amy Nelson (9:15 PM)
There was a press conference before the game today when Selig presented his Commissioner Award to Rachel Robinson. When Ms. Robinson accepted, she spoke to an audience that included her three children in the front row. I'd like to share some of what she said and will add as I cull together her quotes.
Rachel Robinson (9:20 PM)
We incorporated the [Jackie Robinson] foundation in 1973, the year Jackie passed. It was a devastating time for us, emotionally. We needed to find a way to hold onto him. And we wanted a living memorial, a living tribute to him. So that began a discussion about a scholarship program giving people who don't have access to higher education and who otherwise won't be able to live up to their potential.
Amy Nelson (9:22 PM)
Ms. Robinson said that they have graduated over 1,100 students since its inception and currently have 266 students enrolled in universities. She also said that the foundation simply doesn't pass out free rides and says Good Luck. They bring the recipients into New York every year to meet with board members and as the students approach matriculation, receieve counselling and job interviews with sponsors connected to the foundation.
Jim, Madison, AL
Jackie Robinson was more than baseball. He was a great American. He handled great adversity and represented the adversity of his people with class and great dignity. Joe Morgan is correct, ALL who want to celebrate Jackie should no matter their color. He wasn't about black and white. He was about unifying a nation as one. A truly great American.
Amy Nelson (9:29 PM)
Chris Young, tonight's starting pitcher for the Padres, wrote this thesis about Jackie Robinson. Another colleague of mine, Jeff Bradley, recently wrote a story about it. And it was interesting to read how Young delved into the media's treatment --- and its discourse -- of African Americans; how they were referred to seemingly changed from negative to neutral. Young's study was concentrated in the New York Times' only, but it is an intersting case study in how not only had Robinson broken the color barrier, but he also affected change. As Rev. Jackson said earlier today, he was an agent, a catalyst for change and in many ways was one of the first pioneers in the civil rights movement.
How did the national news media report on Jackie Robinson 60 years ago, and can you relate this to the Imus comments. Thank you David Penny
Amy Nelson (9:37 PM)
A great question and one I was interested in. The Associated Press ran a series of stories earlier this week, and among those was a collection of newspaper accounts from the day Robinson broke into the big leagues. Almost all of the stories did not lead with mention of Robinson's first game. And there were a few that didn't mention it at all. One of the AP's retired columnists wrote a recent column on what it was like to cover that game. From what I remember, he wrote that the media tried to keep it simple and stick to writing about the game.
i thought jackie robinsons number was retired. then why is Mariano Rivera wearing 42?
Amy Nelson (9:50 PM)
Andrea: Rivera was grandfathered in when MLB retired Robinson's number in 1997. Since Rivera was wearing the number 42 at the time, he was allowed to keep it. He is the only active major leaguer left who wore number 42 when it was retired.
Amy Nelson (9:53 PM)
I just received word that Branch Rickey III is here tonight. Bernadette McDonal of Major League Baseball just told me he appeared in our ESPN radio booth. I'm trying to work on tracking Mr. Rickey down. In the interim, the Dodgers are ahead 5-1 and Chris Young was just taken out of the game by Bud Black with runners on second and third.
Amy Nelson (9:54 PM)
And that's Bernadette McDonald! Not McDonal ...
Amy Nelson (9:55 PM)
And that's bases loaded, not runners on second and third ... this is my first time on a chat, bear with me tonight!
Tonight's game has a big Mobile, AL connection. Hank Aaron in the booth, Juan Pierre and Louis Gonzalez on the field, and Jake Peavy resting his arm after last night's win...
Amy Nelson (9:59 PM)
That was a nod to the South ... and also to show that an east coast-bias doesn't always exist. Pierre spoke about being from the south and how his family and his parents would talk about Robinson, and that's really how he first learned about who Robinson was. Pierre said it was more of an oral history passed down.
Amy Nelson (10:21 PM)
Sorry everyone I am back. I just found Mr. Rickey III and will soon relay what he said to me in our brief conversation.
Amy Nelson (10:22 PM)
Meanwhile I will put out a few more questions about Mr. Rickey.
ESPN is giving Robinson too much credit. Shouldn't it be the owner of the Dodgers who deserves most of the credit for allowing Robinson to play? After all, he Robinson had nothing to lose, while the owner was putting his career and all he had worked for at risk.
Michael Mullen, GA
Why is it that NO ONE is getting this right. Yes Jackie Robinson was a GREAT Baseball player, but that is what he was, A BALL PLAYER. The truth be told he had no say when he went to the major leagues, or if he would go at all. Why is no one talking about Branch Rickey, the real person who broke the major league color barrier by having the courage to bring Jackie Robinson to the major leagues. Mr. Rickey made baseball truely the American pasttime for ALL Americans reguardless of skin color, or anthing else. It was Mr. Rickey's courage that to this day should be a model for all of us to live our life by to where we are all equal. Yes Jackie Robinson was a GREAT Baseball player, and deserves the awards he has recieved, but he was just a ball player who without the courage of a Branch Rickey could have ended up as just another ballplayer, and another statistic.
I am disappointed that in all of the well-deserved TV, radio, newpaper coverage given to Jackie Robinson's debut 60 years ago, virtually no mention has been made of the man who engineered this activity from the very first. Branch Rickey picked Jackie Robinson for this role, signed him to his first contract, coached him as to what he would have to endure, and how he would have to react. Certainly, only God gave Jackie his abilities, but Branch Rickey was the person who opened the doors for Jackie. Mr. Rickey was a man of great vision. I think he deserved more credit than is being given today.
Branch Rickey III (10:29 PM)
My grandfather's career in baseball almost lasted his entire life, but just at the end of his life he was out of the game and he had an office on the farm. And when that office was taken down and all the awards were taken off the wall from his entire career in baseball, not a single award recognized his involvement in the breaking of the racial barrier.
Branch Rickey III (10:31 PM)
My grandfather never accepted a single award on that premise. He didn't feel that was warranted. He was in a privleged position, had the opportunity and did something to him, that was morally -- a thing he would have hoped almost anyone in our family, a whole lot of friends, and anyone across the country would have done given that same opportunity.
Branch Rickey III (10:34 PM)
It's a very, very, very, proud hertiage for me, a grandson, sixty years later, to not find any awards given to my grandfather for that. His Hall of Fame award, he was inducted posthumously. It's the only award I know to Branch Rickey that recognizes that. He couldn't prevent it because he wasn't alive. It's the only award given to him for that purpose.
Branch Rickey III (10:36 PM)
So I'm telling you, the Rickey Family admires, reveres, idolizes Jackie Robinson and Rachel Robinson and the Robinson family and has no desire to see any sparkle or shine taken away from Jackie. Are there other messages that can be sent about Branch Rickey? Yes. And some other day we'll talk about those.
Amy Nelson (10:43 PM)
Thanks to ESPN Radio Chief John Martin for helping me track down Mr. Rickey, whom I found via his kind son-in-law who graciously brought Mr. Rickey out of his suite. Mr. Rickey spoke with grace and a calm and recalled his grandfather as a person who made every single grandchild feel as though he or she were his favorite. And that his grandfather made them want to reach for something higher in life. Some beyond what you are doing today. To stand for something that would make a difference.
Sean (Chicago, IL)
Why is no mention being made of Jackie's court martial in 1944 for refusing to move to the back of a bus while in the U.S. Army in Texas? I realize this is a night to remeber his contributions to baseball and the historical impact of April 15, 1947, however, his encounters with Jim Crow and segregation prior to that night made him the person he was--able to control his temper in the face of incredible bigotry and prejudice. I think some mention should have been made on the air and in the press about his life before baseball and outside of UCLA to give some context to this great man and his life in MLB.
i have a comment on what hank aaron said what happen to black players in baseball. in my city ,memphis tn. there are no official baseball field in the inner city neighborhoods. there are plenty basketball courts. with the help of the r.b.i. program we are getting the kids intrest but at the high school neighborhoods the are no fields.at the school i coach there is'nt a field within 5 miles if anyone can foward this on to hank aaron or joe morgan i would apprieciate it
Amy Nelson (10:55 PM)
Gregory: Dave Winfield spoke about this earlier. How many kids play outside these days? And the ones that do, how many are picking up a bat, ball and glove and playing pickup? The questions about what is happening to the black players and inner city baseball and suburban and urban pickup games and how do we fix it can become dizzying. And there is no one solution. Winfield suggested that it really has to start with communities. Communities need to be invested in the sport and the sport expanding and growing. Those resources have to be grown at a local level, at least that's what many here have said today.
Eddie Rodriguez, Los Angeles, CA
I am ever more proud to be Dodger fan because of Jackie Robinson, the uniform the number, but most of all the character and integrity he represented, made it all possible. Now we can enjoy the true american past time baseball. My father and uncle always talked about what player and man Jackie Robinson was. I wasn't born when he played and when he passed. His legacy will live on, always. Not only through baseball, but in our lives. Especially to the true fans of baseball, but of all sports. It united us today as fans, players wearing the honorary number 42. God Bless the Robinson family and think blue, Go Dodgers!!!!!!!!!!
Amy Nelson (10:56 PM)
I want to share a few more things Ms, Robinson said earlier today before the game.
Amy Nelson (11:05 PM)
My greatest feeling and hope for this celebration is that we won't just celebrate the past, we do that very well and it makes us feel good. But that we will reflect on the present and know that we made progress and know that we have a long way to go in all areas. The celebration gives us an opportunity to come together and say, Where are we now and where are we headed? I always quote Frederick Douglas when he said, "Without struggle there is no change."
H J Eiley(Toronto)
Robinson,Newcombe and Campanella amongst others were very fortunate to play their triple A careers with the Montreal Royals. The city welcomed them and extended unfettered hospitality to them during their stays. I believe this indoctrination in Montreal to a "white" league was invaluable. Branch Rickey in fact insisted that they go up to Montreal before he made his move to bring them up to the Dodgers.It also introduced these players to some northern U S cities like Syracuse, Rochester and others.I lived in Montreal in those years and clearly remeber the comfort index that this city and the ball club extended to these ball players. Don't let your audience forget it...this nourishing, supportive environment went a long way for these excellent athletes.
Amy Nelson (11:12 PM)
HJ: Newcombe had a great line about this in the press conference earlier. He and Campanella first played in Nashua, N.H., when Robinson went to Montreal. And Newcombe joked to the crowd that, "You may or may not realize that Roy and I were the first black Americans to play baseball in the United Stated. Jackie, of course, played in Canada." That drew laughter from the room.
Right before sportcenter tonight they had a special for Jackie it amazed me that he said he had a good life and do you think that this day will get bigger as the years move on and what do you think about the jersey situation
Amy Nelson (11:19 PM)
Michelle: I think the jersey "situation" is best answered by Sharon Robinson, who said she and her family were thrilled when they first heard of Ken Griffey Jr.'s gesture to Bud Selig and the family is that players subsequently made overtures to wear the jersey.
Mike Shuba ..son of George"Shotgun"Shuba 1955 W.S. Champs
My father now 82 sits below a photo of himself shaking Jackie Robinson's hand April 18,1946. "A Handshake for the Century" while watching the baseball game tonight...Let us look back to this historic moment and what Jackie and George stood for...One handshake.. one team... Teammates
Elk Grove, CA
This is one of the best baseball telecasts I have seen on ESPN. Not because they are honoring Jackie Robinson, but because of the ex-players you have had in the booth during the game. It is like you are watching the game at your house with Rachel, Frank, Hank, etc... and just listening to old baseball stories. ESPN may be over doing it a little and Branch Rickey should be given a lot of credit as well because he risked a lot during that time in breaking the color line. Yet, Jackie was risking his life at the same time. Three cheers for Jackie and Branch. They both ade the game better.
C Long, Los Angeles
I feel strange with people saying things like there are entire teams with no African-American players on it - I believe Joe Morgan's example was the Atlanta Braves. I realize players from the Carribbean who are of African descent aren't Americans but they wouldn't be allowed to play if not for what Robinson and Rickey did. Why aren't they being counted? Why, for that matter aren't all players of color being mentioned? If not for the breaking of the color barrier, would Russell Martin, who is Canadian, be allowed? Or Juan Furcal? Or Ichiro Suzuki? It seems strange today, when so much of MLB is made up of non-Americans, to limit this discussion to just Americans of color. I think Robinson and Rickey opened up a very big door.
Amy Nelson (11:26 PM)
C Long: Your point is one that has been made a few times on this board tonight. I believe that what many people have said is that this is an American game, rooted in this country's pastime. And it has become global, and is embraced globally more now than ever before. And while everyone is quick to credit Robinson for the acceptance of all races, the players, the African American players, are dwlindling. I think Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford spoke about how their skin color is the same as many of the Latin players but that they don't share the same culture, language and heritage as the Latin players. So there is a difference. It's not as if the international players aren't counted, it's just that the focus is on the decline of African American players in the game.
Victor ( old bridge, NJ)
You have to give lot of credit for probably starting the civil rights movement. However, I believe Branch Ricky should also be given a lot of credit on this day. Not only for giving Jackie a chance, but for constantly reminding him not to fight back and being such a great friend to him.
Amy Nelson (11:27 PM)
Victor: I hope you had a chance to read Branch Rickey III's quotes above. And some of the other readers posts about rememebring Branch Rickey.
Amy Nelson (11:28 PM)
I want to thank everyone for joining me in the chat tonight. At the end of the inning I will be closing up here. I hope I was able to give you some insight into the day here at Dodger Stadium.
Jeffrey Soileau (Ruston, Louisiana)
I feel the drop in African American participation in major league baseball can be directly attributed to a lack of programs for inner city kids. If kids were given more opportunities to play as kids and fall in love with baseball then participation would increase. The MLB should put more resources in to developing leagues for the kids who do not have the opportunity to play. Also, they should get players the kids can relate with to visit these leagues. These acts should increase African American participation and bring an increased talent level to the MLB.
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