3 min read Players

Barrier Breakers

"We knew it wasn’t right, but we saw it as unchangeable part of the world. Jackie didn’t see it that way."

By Tim Sheridan
April 15, 2019

— So here we are, less than three weeks into the baseball season, and the Cubs are tied with the Reds for last place in their division with a 5-9 record. Today is Jackie Robinson Day and the good news for the Cubs is, they start a series against Miami who currently is tied with Colorado for the worst record in baseball at 4-12. Later this week, the Cubs will host the 7-9 AZ DBacks at Wrigley. The Cubs need a “get right” week and this schedule lines up nicely for that. Ideally by next Monday, I’ll be talking with you and the Cubs record will be at least 9-11, hopefully .500 or better!

Jackie Robinson

— On this day in 1947,  Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was certainly a historic moment and was long overdue at the time. The Cubs had a barrier breaker of their own in Buck O’Neil, the first African American Coach in Major League Baseball in 1962. I interviewed Buck O’Neil in 2006 and in his humble style, he downplayed his becoming the first African American MLB coach. Here is that video interview, in which O’Neil also talks about his work with the Cubs and tells a story about a young Ernie Banks.

The following dialog isn’t in my video, but before he passed, Buck O’Neil said of Jackie Robinson: “Jackie wasn’t built the way we were, we were conditioned to segregation. We were conditioned to Jim Crow. We knew it wasn’t right, but we saw it as unchangeable part of the world. Jackie didn’t see it that way. Jackie knew the times would change. He would make them change.” And then Buck smiled really big and said: “Thank you Jackie.”

Buck O’Neil

Buck also put Jackie’s MLB debut into historical perspective saying: “When Jackie Robinson went to the Major Leagues, that was the beginning of the modern-day civil rights movement. That was before Rosa Parks said, ‘I don’t feel like going to the back of the damn bus today.’ That was before Brown vs. Board of Education. Martin Luther King was a sophomore at Morehouse College at the time. Jackie Robinson went to the Major Leagues and that’s what started the ball rolling. That was the start, man!”

— Last week I mentioned that I’d moved back to Minneapolis after spring training finished. I hadn’t even had a chance to unload boxes and settle in, before I flew back to AZ for my Dad’s wedding. Everyone who attended the wedding had a great time and my father’s newly betrothed, Jan, did a fantastic job of setting up everything for the shindig!

Upon my return to Minnesota from the wedding, a storm dumped almost 9 inches of snow on Minneapolis over two days. Combined with cold temps and windy conditions, spring had gone missing! As of today, most of the snow has disappeared and spring is back, with sunshine and temps into the mid-50’s.

I don’t get dressed up often. With my pops! (Photo by John Antonoff)

— A shout-out to the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs who won their second straight College Hockey title over the weekend with a 3-0 shutout of UMass in the Frozen Four final. I spent a lot of time in Duluth while growing up, as some of my cousins lived there. My dad, who just turned 78 years young, actually was born in Duluth. And in an interesting, or not so interesting side note, my Dad was born at the same Duluth hospital as Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka, Bob Dylan. My Dad arrived six weeks before Dylan.

— Did you get a chance to see last week’s fun CubTalks Episode 8 – “Harry, Me And The Mic?” In the episode, you’ll see some cool never before seen footage of Harry Caray and background story on his singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch. Having handed my public address microphone to Harry about a hundred times to sing, I can attest, it was always an adventure!

 

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