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This Week in Freudenfreude: A Diamond Anniversary

That headline would be even better if we'd been doing this feature in 2022, because then it would be 75 years instead of 76. It still works, though, for what turns out to be our second baseball-themed freudenfreude in 3 weeks.

Tomorrow, Major League Baseball will commemorate the anniversary of the day that Jackie Robinson integrated the sport (April 15, 1947). There will be some speeches and some other activities like that. Announcers will talk about Robinson during television broadcasts. All players will be wearing Robinson's #42 on their uniforms. For those who do not follow baseball, Jackie Robinson Day is the only time active players can do that, as the number has been retired throughout the sport, and the last active player who had a waiver (the Yankees' Mariano Rivera) is now retired.

Often, when the worlds of politics and sports intersect, many sports fans become irritated and insist that sports are meant to be an escape from the real world and that sports and politics don't mix. It is most common to see and hear right-leaning folks say this, though you occasionally hear it from some lefties, too. Whoever says it, it's nonsense. While sports may be an escape sometimes, the overlap between the worlds of sports and politics is frequent and significant. Even casual sports fans (and, probably, non-fans) can think of dozens of examples readily, from Jesse Owens and the Nazis to Muhammad Ali and Vietnam to Billie Jean King and the "Battle of the Sexes" to Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem.

This is hardly a coincidence. Athletes, and their teams, get a lot of attention. It's far more plausible to be the change you want to see if you have a platform that gives you access to millions of people. Further, winning engenders a lot of, for lack of a better term, forgiveness from skeptical or hostile fans. There is a reason the Brooklyn Dodgers were able to put Robinson's name on a lineup card close to a decade before the Civil Rights Movement got underway in earnest. White fans and players were a lot more accepting of a Black player when he was able to prove he belonged, and was eventually able to help Brooklyn bring home its first World Series championship (in 1955).

We could devote this item to re-telling Robinson's story, as the pride of the Dodgers (and of UCLA) is a bona fide heroic figure. However, baseball fans surely know about Robinson without our help. And even non-baseball fans likely know, too, thanks to Robinson's prominent place in American culture, countless books on Robinson, and films like 42, The Jackie Robinson Story and Ken Burns' Baseball.

Point is, we don't have much to add on that subject. So, instead, we thought we would take the occasion of Jackie Robinson Day to take note of a handful of other historic Black baseball players, who tend to get overlooked because of the massive shadow that Robinson casts:

The celebration of Jackie Robison is, in many ways, a celebration of all of these folks who helped move the game forward in various ways. It's just a shame that, on the whole, their names won't be mentioned very much on Saturday. Still, they get a tip of the cap from us, at least. Have a good weekend, all. (Z)

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