Skin Color and Sports, Looking Back, Living Forward

I watched the movie, 42 today. I remember being a kid and watching Jackie Robinson playing ball. I was too young to know the story behind Jackie Robinson playing ball. All I knew was he was a quiet serious player, and he was darned good.

Jackie Robinson took care of business on the filed. I never heard, or understood the word professional at that age. I never heard the word racism either. All I knew by the time I was old enough to watch baseball was Jackie Robinson was one heck of a palyer, and he seldom spoke.

Growing up in rural Minnesota, I did not know much about baseball and race. In 1962 I knew we had a hot hitter on the Twins roster, named Tony Oliva. Tony Oliva struck fear when he moved to the major league on the Twins roster. Tony Oliva was one of the best batters in the league coming into the league.

Until the end of his first season he was a hot batter. By the end of his first season, Tony Oliva could not get within four feet of home plate. Pitchers would throw the ball at him. I thought as an ignorant to how the world works kid, there was a battle between Tony Oliva, and the Pitchers over who own the plate and the batters box.

When the Civil Rights movement started to make national news, I never made the connection between Civil Rights, Jackie Robinson, and Tony Oliva. I always believed Jackie Robinson was the consummate professional, and Tony Oliva was pressured away from the plate because he was too powerful a batter.

Today, after the movie 42, it becomes clear what the real issues were. Jackie Robinson was a professional, because he had to be. Tony Oliva shied away from the plate not because the pitchers of the day did not want him to hit off of them. They both were the way they were because of the people who did not believe they belonged on a professional baseball field with white players.

Sometimes we forget we are a little planet, with no place to move to. Every generation repeats some of the wrongs previous generations lived under. I know the day is coming when skin color and sexual preference will no longer be an important. I hope we do not lose ground as we walk down the road to get there.

It is up to you now. It is your responsibility to ensure that the path to equality is not lost. The cost has been to high for you and your generation to forget how it used to be, and not strive to make it better. Make yourself proud. When you see a wrong, do what you can to right it. Don’t settle for good enough. Remember too, hate and ignorance do not have boundaries.