FIVE YEARS AGOI saw my oldest daughter bouncing at the first base of each pitch during one of her first Little League games. She was clearly imitating me, as the only game she had ever seen me in was the Hall of Fame game at age 3.
She stole every opportunity to get a base.
When she was asked to explain her sudden obsession with stealing bases, and aggressively advancing upon every pitch, she shook her head.
My daughter, now 13, had seen “42” before the start of the baseball season. She was on high alert for parental protection. We were unsure if it was appropriate for her age. However, we knew that Robinson's story was too important and needed to be shared through a medium that is so appealing to this generation of fans: movie entertainment.
Our four children, one son and three girls, had already a basic understanding of American race dynamics. They knew that the weight and power associated with race can knock you off your feet no matter how prepared. We prepared them for the horribleness ofBen Chapman is the manager. Robinson and his family are constantly under threat from Florida springtraining.
My daughter mimicked the diamond's movements in the movie to prove that it resonated. My children would be fans of the movie.I was able to get to the point right away, but my wife and I felt it equally important to share the entire story of Jackie Robinson. The man who stood in court and marched through the streets to open a bank. Jackie Robinson wanted equality as a way to allow anyone to play or participate in baseball.
Robinson spent the rest of his life extending his influence to other areas of American society. Robinson had no plans to stop progress at first base. His post-baseball efforts were an extension of his Hall of Fame career. They reached the conscience of the board, political elite, and institutions of power including MLB. He did not cross the finish line when he retired. It was a beginning line. His integration of baseball was a key component in the civil rights gains later. Even without a bat in hand, he was a part of them. Robinson is still significant 75 years after his entry into Major League Baseball. This was because he made a lasting and meaningful change.
LIKE MY KIDSJackie Robinson's life story was told to my family in New Jersey when I was a kid. For me, his story was larger than life. It was also for many young baseball players, and for Black America. Jackie and his family are like royalty to us, yet they still feel close at every turn. Jackie gave me the chance to play in major league baseball, and I was able to make even more of a connection.
Rachel, his widow, was my first encounter with him right before the 1991 MLB Draft. It was my 20th birthday and it took my breath away to see her.
Jackie Robinson's daughter Sharon, who was playing for the Phillies 1998, set out on a tour that was inspired by their family's principles. It was called “Breaking Barriers” and Sharon Robinson, a big leaguer, joined Sharon in the classrooms to tell Jackie's story.I was selected to meet her in Philadelphia where I went to college and played, in order to meet students. It was surreal. I took some time to understand what it meant to be Jackie Robinson's representative, to know that his daughter would share our story with the next generation, and to feel that I had been a part of something. Their story.
Over the past twenty-five years, I've been doing extensive media work to share the Robinsons story. I also interviewed Rachel in Cuba in 2016 and there has been a lot of desperation because I worry about Jackie Robinson's legacy. Although it is one of America's greatest stories, it will fade with time. It is important to share it with grandchildren who are old enough to become his great-great grandchildren.
After speaking with UCLA baseball players, which Jackie played on in his college days, I have seen firsthand the impact this has. To prepare for the Jackie Robinson Day game between Stanford University and UCLA, I interviewed Eric Karros's sons. I found out how much they knew and how committed their coach John Savage was to sharing his story.
Then came the day when my personal relationship to the Robinsons was extended to my family. It has grown into a deeper friendship since Sharon met me on the tour 20 years ago. One year ago, we were playing phone tag and Sharon called back to check on my youngest daughter. They began to have a conversation. It was amazing to hear them share their childhoods and talk about gymnastics. I got out of the way.
Jackie Robinson became my daughter's family in that moment.
Rev. Jesse Jackson shares how Jackie Robinson inspired him to challenge the boundaries of baseball and beyond.
THE PARTS Robinson's story is a universal example of what we all desire from the world: relevancy, respect, inclusion and fairness. Robinson achieved this feat with grace and fire, extraordinary talent, and a message of equality for all.
It's great that he could do it through sports, as Kyle Karros stated during our interview at UCLA. Karros explained to me that he wasn't just a great baseball player, but that he believed in so much more. He used baseball to make a difference and that's what we should all strive for, to have a positive, lasting impact on this world.
Robinson received a microphone from baseball. He used it to confront the world and make a difference, not just for his personal success.
This is a powerful lesson that can be passed on to all generations.
Sharon has written a number of books about her family and her father’s legacy. One of the books is a memoir about the year Sharon turned 13 (“Child of the Dream, A Memoir of 1963”), and another (“Stealing Homes: An Intimate Family Portrait By Jackie Robinson's Daughter”) on their home life during her father’s “retirement”. Jackie wrote Dwight Eisenhower in a letter, “I've become more aggressive since my father stopped playing.” Their family was faced with the same difficulties as anyone else when their father was always on the move, pulling in so many different directions.
A nation, including Martin Luther King Jr. and many other U.S. presidents, was looking for her father. He would create daddy-daughter moments in New York. He'd also check the ice on their lake to make sure it was safe for her to use to skate. Sharon would share one of the most beautiful passages in “Stealing Home” about this.
Dad was responsible for testing the lake's ice to ensure it was safe for skating. The kids stood along the shoreline shouting encouragement to Dad as he stepped onto the snow-covered Ice. Before he put one foot in front of another, he would tap at the ice with the broomstick. After what seemed to be forever, Dad would finally reach the bottom of the lake and tap one more time with his stick. Then he would turn to us, shouting: “Go get your skates!” Dad was brave.
Now, I find it more remarkable. It took me many years to understand that he was just as brave when he first entered baseball. I only slowly realized what it meant for him break the baseball color line and the courage it took to navigate uncharted and dangerous waters. He had to navigate a path that was unclear like a blind man tapping for clues. Jackie Robinson was that Jackie Robinson. That was Jackie Robinson.
He couldn't even swim.
Robinson was playing his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers 75 years ago, breaking the color barrier in major professional baseball. It was also a major event in the history of the game, which helped set the stage for what would become the integration of the nation. Robinson managed to climb it despite the fact that it looked more like a wall made of barbed wire.
Through his fearlessness, moments of doubt, love, and frustration, he tested the ice for us all. The path to social progress is not linear. All of this he did not do for his own children but for the children he hoped to raise. He also left behind his parents, mentors, and coaches. They know that, despite his many accomplishments, he was always striving to be a better father because that love endures.
My calculations as a third-base coach admittedly biased, showed that my daughter would steal more bases than 30 in her Little League season. She would jump from base to base, sometimes taking another one when there was a wild pitch or a passed ball. She realized that only a handful of kids could consistently throw strikes, so she decided to stop swinging the bat. This was her best chance at getting on base and showing what she could do. She was a two-outcome girl. Walk or strike out looking.
I explained to her that although her strategy was sound, she wouldn't have the ability to continue it for long. In the coming seasons, opposition pitchers would improve. She didn't care about it. Jackie Robinson will always feel the same way you do once you feel like Jackie Robinson.