|We are all Jackie Robinson:|
From left: Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo,
Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez,
Blue Jays designated hitter Juan Rivera
and Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz.
I am of two minds on this practice. I am a great admirer of Robinson, both as a player and as a man, and he deserves honor and remembrance. Both he and Branch Rickey took great personal and professional risks to integrate baseball, and in the process they made both the game and the nation better and stronger.
And before the Robinson number was retired, his story was in danger of being forgotten. The Robinson Day practice of hauling No. 42 out of mothballs is an annual lesson in history for generations of players and fans far removed from his era.
On the other hand ... the purpose of the uniform number is identification, to make it easier for the fan sitting several hundred feet away from the field to tell who it is playing shortstop. When everybody is wearing the same number, that primary purpose is lost.
The universal 42 is a political gesture, which is another problem. There are, as any given moment, some 960 men wearing major league uniforms. (Thirty teams, 25 active players per team, seven field staff, that comes to 960.) I doubt you can select 960 people at random and not come up with at least one racist, and I'm not a fan of mandatory groupthink. Robinson was a tremendously divisive figure in his lifetime —despised by racists on one side and militants on the other — and forcing a phony consensus on his memory is nearly as great a disservice as letting that memory fade.