Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jackie Robinson Day

"Mr. Rickey," I asked, "are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?"

I never will forget the way he exploded.

"Robinson," he said, "I'm looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back."


I thought what a glorious, cleansing thing it would be to let go. To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create. I could throw down my bat, stride over to that Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. Then I could walk away from it all. I'd never become a sports star. But my son could tell his son what his daddy could have been if he hadn't been too much of a man.

Then, I thought of Mr. Rickey — how his family and friends had begged him not to fight for me and my people. I thought of all his predictions, which had come true. Mr. Rickey had come to a crossroads and made a lonely decision. I was at a crossroads. I would make mine. I would stay.

—Jackie Robinson,"I Never Had it Made"

It was something that had happened during an insignificant weekday game between the Dodgers and Giants back in the 1950s. Robinson, by then an established star, was playing third base that afternoon, and during the game something happened that drove him suddenly and totally mad. ... Without warning, Robinson began shouting imprecations, obscenities, curses. His voice was piercing, his face distorted with passion. ... It had been nothing, a moment's aberration, but it seemed to suggest what can happen to a man who has been used, who has been made into a symbol and a public sacrifice. ... After that moment, I knew that we had asked him to do too much for us. None of it — probably not a day of it — was ever easy for him.
— Roger Angell, "Five Seasons"

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