Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Major League Baseball Honors Jackie Robinson Today 7

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 125 Jackie RobinsonOn April 15, 1997 Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig mandated an unprecedented edict. It was never before witnessed in any American professional sport.

Selig ordered all Major League Baseball teams to officially retire the #42 jersey in honor of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson.

Selig’s historic move recognized Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his 1947 debut. On that day Robinson became the first black baseball player in the modern era to cross the color barrier that existed in the sport.

It’s hard for us to image today, but Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson’s bold, courageous decision to break the color line in 1947 opened the gates for other worthy, yet unfairly discriminated against, black baseball players.

Thanks to Robinson, other talented black baseball players quickly followed and begun playing on other previously all white teams in Major League Baseball.

As a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, #42’s fortitude also kindled dialogue beyond the baseball diamond when it came to our country’s ugly segregation policies. Many attribute that Robinson’s brazen baseball move of crossing the color barrier helped propel the long overdue and ultimately successful Civil Rights Movement.

The Movie 42 Tells Robinson’s Story

Robinson’s heroic and individually spectacular personal life story was told in the motion picture 42 (release date: April 2013). It chronicled Robinson’s struggles and success as one of America’s most respected athletes ever.

When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 as a 28 year-old rookie, #42 overcame significant public scrutiny as well as regular cruel and unnecessary racial abuse. He was the target of ugly taunts, knock-down pitches and hateful insensitivity directed at him because of his skin color.

However, the Dodgers’ tough talking manager Leo Durocher took a firm stand in defense of Robinson. Also, legendary Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reece’s comment in support of Jackie Robinson will never be forgotten. While standing with his arm draped around Robinson’s shoulders, Reece said, “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”

The son of a Georgia sharecropper and a Southern California domestic laborer, Jackie Robinson immediately proved his mettle and demonstrated his athletic excellence. Despite the racial abuse he suffered, Robinson rose above the fray.

Instead of fighting back on the low ground, he immediately made an impact on Major League Baseball and quickly became a rising star.

Robinson was voted Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year in 1947. Soon after, he won both the National League batting title and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.

Jackie played his entire ten year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A first-time ballot Hall of Fame inductee, Robinson’s career accomplishments included six all-star games, a World Series Championship in 1955 and impressive lifetime stats of a .311 batting average, 1,518 hits, 137 home-runs, 734 runs batted in and 197 steals.

In addition to being selected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team, Jackie Robinson was named #44 on The Sporting News’ list of top 100 baseball players ever.

As a result of what he accomplished after formally hanging up his baseball cleats in 1956, this remarkable athlete became a cultural icon.

Robinson is widely admired and credited for overcoming other barriers beyond the baseball diamond. He broke additional color lines that existed in mainstream America at the time.

Jackie Robinson Broke Through Other Racial Barriers

ABC Sports hired Jackie Robinson as the first ever black sportscaster ever to cover Major League Baseball. In the late 50s, Robinson crossed a business barrier and became the first ever black Vice President of a major United States corporation when appointed by Chock full ‘o Nuts Coffee.

Before his death in 1972, Robinson accumulated a never-to-be duplicated resume as a distinguished retired athlete.

Besides his Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction, Robinson chaired the NAACP.

Plus, he received our country’s two single greatest non-sports related individual honors; i.e. the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

TIME Magazine named Jackie Robinson among the top 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

TIME Magazine’s ranking not only honored a most worthy athlete, but also a courageous American who helped transition our country away from its ugly discriminatory past.

MIKE on sports!

Roy “Campy” Campanella 7

Posted on August 17, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Roy Campanella

Roy Campanella

The Vintage Athlete of the Month for August proved that race didn’t matter as the first great African American catcher in Major League Baseball while winning three Most Valuable Player Awards during a decade with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Roy Campanella joined the Dodgers as a 26-year-old rookie in 1948 and quickly emerged as a key reason the Dodgers won the NL Pennant five times over the next nine seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

Former MLB Stars Who Deserve Their Day in Cooperstown 18

Posted on July 27, 2013 by Dean Hybl
With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn't been for the Steroid era?

With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn’t been for the Steroid era?

In a year in which baseball’s all-time leader in home runs, a member of the prestigious 3,000 hit club and the winner of 354 games on the mound are all eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time, not a single modern-era player will receive baseball’s greatest honor during the annual induction ceremony on Sunday.

To honor this auspicious occasion, Sports Then and Now is recognizing five baseball players that we believe have legitimate claims to being in the Hall of Fame and who very likely might have received the “call to the Hall” years ago had not a generation of players totally changed the perception of offensive production.

Dale Murphy
398 HR, 1,266 RBI, .265 Batting Average, 161 stolen bases, 1,197 runs, 350 doubles

When Dale Murphy retired from baseball in 1993 the PED era in baseball was just getting started. By the time he became eligible for the HOF ballot in 1999, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had made a mockery of the single season home run record and Murphy’s career total of 398 home runs and top season of 44 dingers were no longer particularly impressive.

As a result, Murphy was included on 19.3% of the ballots in his first year and 23.2% the next year, but as the home run totals of current players escalated, his vote totals steadily declined. He was included on only 8.5% of ballots by 2004 and never legitimately had a chance for induction. His run through the HOF gauntlet mercifully ended earlier this year as he received 18.1% of the votes (75% needed for induction) in his final year on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry →

Jackie Robinson Displayed Greatness On and Off the Field 66

Posted on April 15, 2012 by Dean Hybl
Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947.

Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947.

Editor’s Note: In honor of today being the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier I am reprinting an article I originally published in recognition of the anniversary a year ago.

I am learning that one difficult challenge of being a parent is explaining to our children pieces from past history that are inconsistent with how we want them to think and experience daily life.

Recently my five-year-old son and I were watching a section from the wonderful Ken Burns Baseball documentary. The section first focused about baseball during World War II and then about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947.

Because he is growing up in a time and culture where racism isn’t a noticeable part of daily life and he has been fortunate in his short life to meet and regularly interact with many people from all backgrounds and races, it was very difficult for him to grasp that there was a time in our country when discrimination was part of the norm in certain places and where not everyone was given the same opportunities.

While trying to give him enough information to explain why Jackie Robinson was a special person and should be celebrated, I found myself focusing on how great Robinson was as a player, rather than simply focusing on his crucial role in breaking racial barriers. Not that I was trying to shield him from the ugly elements of America’s past, but rather because it was easier for him to understand and because what I want him to know as he moves forward with his own life is that people are judged and celebrated for their achievements, performance and success and that skin color isn’t an important part of that equation.

When you think about it, that is probably one of the greatest components of Jackie Robinson’s legacy. He paved the way for us to be able to judge greatness not based on ethnicity or race, but instead on how someone performs in whatever area in which they participate.

There are certainly still racial issues within our country, but while it is important for my son and all children to know and understand our history, things will continue to change as more generations of youngsters live through times where, to quote Martin Luther King Jr., “they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”

It was 64 years ago today that Robinson played his first game as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The future Hall of Famer didn’t get a hit that afternoon, but his mere presence forever changed professional baseball and American society.

During his rookie season, Robinson hit .297 and was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

Despite being 28 years old at the time of his major league debut, Robinson played 10 seasons for the Dodgers and helped them reach the World Series six times and claim the World Series title in 1955. He had a career batting average of .311 and was named the NL MVP in 1949.

In honor of Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball, we are including several Youtube videos that celebrate his greatness both as a baseball player and as the man who paved the way for baseball to truly become the American pastime.

Read the rest of this entry →

Ten Sports Dynasties That Might Have Been 25

Posted on December 07, 2011 by Jena Ellis

Despite having many of the top stars in Major League Baseballs, the Brooklyn Dodgers won only one World Series title.

Now that the 2011-12 NBA season will happen, sports prognosticators will return to projecting how many championships the Miami Heat will win. Forget about the disappointment of last season — this team has more than enough talent to bring home at least a few Larry O’Brien Trophies, right? That’s what people were saying about the Lakers in the ’60s, Mets in the ’80s, and Mariners in the ’90s (different trophies for the latter two, of course), yet they wound up with just two championships between them when all was said and done. The following would-be dynasties failed to meet expectations for a multitude of reasons — including injuries, team chemistry problems, free agency, drugs, and even a strike — leaving fans wondering what might have been had things gone a little differently.

1940s and ’50s Brooklyn Dodgers
Even if the Dodgers had won multiple World Series titles during this era, the franchise would’ve been more remembered for its role in integrating baseball by signing and promoting Jackie Robinson. More than just an inspiring figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Robinson was an ideal second baseman with tremendous speed, excellent contact ability, and exemplary defense. He played alongside Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, and Sandy Koufax, one of the most talent-rich rosters in baseball history. From 1947 to 1956, the team won six NL pennants and the 1955 World Series, a resume worthy of NL dynasty status, but not MLB dynasty status.

1960s and ’70s Los Angeles Lakers
Before the Buffalo Bills, there were the Lakers. Sure, they had already won four of the first 10 NBA championships, but, with seven Finals losses in nine seasons during the 1960s and ’70s, they were the original poster child for second best. The primary culprit for their failures was the Celtics, who reeled off a remarkable 11 championships in 13 seasons. The Lakers also faced a 76ers team with perhaps the most dominant player off all time, Wilt Chamberlain, and a hungry Knicks team led by Willis Reid and Walt Frazier. When management figured out the mere presence of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor wasn’t enough, it added an older but still effective Chamberlain. The team finally got over the hump in 1973, after Baylor retired and Gail Goodrich had been added to the roster. Read the rest of this entry →

60 Years Ago: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World 9

Posted on October 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Bobby Thomson raced around the bases and into baseball immortality with his pennant-winning home run in 1951.

Sixty years before Evan Longoria’s home run lifted the Tampa Bay Rays into the baseball playoffs and completed the greatest September rally in baseball history, there was another home run that completed another improbable comeback. It was on October 3, 1951 that Bobby Thomson blasted the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that lifted the New York Giants into the 1951 World Series.

The 1951 National League playoff race was to its generation what the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox race was to fans 27 years later and the September Wild Card rally of the Rays and Cardinals to current fans. The Dodgers led the Giants by 13 games on August 11th, only to watch the lead disintegrate over the final seven weeks as Brooklyn went 26-22 in their final 48 regular season games.

At the same time, the New York Giants went 37-7 after August 11th to catch the Dodgers and force a three-game playoff. Read the rest of this entry →

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