In honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, I’d like to write a piece about one of the most important men in baseball, Jackie Robinson. I remember a conversation I had a while back with a gentleman who told me he didn’t understand why Jackie Robinson had his number retired by every MLB team. He also went on to say Babe Ruth was more important than Jackie because he ‘saved’ baseball.

I think he was just a disgruntled Yankee fan.

I really held myself back on the issue because I couldn’t believe what I heard! I understood the whole ‘saved’ baseball thing, but in my own opinion, baseball didn’t need saving…ever! Not after the Black Sox and not after the strikes. Baseball is as American as apple pie and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

I’ve been reading a ton of books about the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie for the past two years and I don’t see any more important event than that which occurred on April 15th, 1947. This marked the beginning of the integration of not only baseball, but the nation. Showing the American people there is no superior race in baseball, also showed them there is no superior race in ordinary everyday life. Again, baseball is as American as apple pie. The impact this sport has on our nation is almost unmeasurable.

But in order to have the ‘Great Experiment’ work, Rickey had to find a man who could handle the pressures of being the first black player in Major League Baseball. A man who had to bit his lip and not let his pride get in the way of the greater good, equality for all in sports and in all walks of life. Jackie Robinson was called names all the books never wanted to mention. His mother and wife were the butt of many ignorant jokes, as well as he himself. Could you imagine your mother or wife called names while you were trying to prove the black man could make it in baseball? On top of that, be an asset to a team? Ever hear about Babe Ruth being called names that dealt with his ethnicity? Did he deal with name calling about his family? Any names he ever heard was from his excessive drinking and eating during the season – never the color of his skin.

I respect Babe Ruth as a player and I know of all the great things he did. I just don’t think he was more important than Robinson and I certainly don’t think his jersey should be retired by all Major League teams. He was an asset to baseball, but more so to the Yankee ball club and is held in high regards by those fans the most.

We all know the story of Jackie and what he endured as a ballplayer for the rights of all non-whites in baseball. I am proud to own a #42 Brooklyn Dodger jersey and wear it whenever I can. That jersey is the only one I know of where the number on the back means more than the name on the front.

Ever hear anyone say that about the number 3?