Thursday, April 05, 2007
I'm glad Willie is wearing No. 42. I wish David Wright would wear it, too.
I write about an inner-city school district where about 75 percent of the students are minorities.
Every January, the district makes a big deal about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And it should.
Yet the day seems to pass like any other in our suburban districts. And without getting all PC on everybody, it kind of burns me that the districts seem to think that only people of color can appreciate why King was important.
But mandating the districts do something to recognize the day would be a waste. It has to be sincere to have meaning.
I thought about that today when I read that Mets Manager Willie Randolph will be allowed to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on Sunday, when Major League Baseball commemorates the 60th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier.
My buddy Will pointed out that it was Reds slugger Ken Griffey Jr. who came up with the idea and called Bud Selig to make the request. Bud liked the idea enough to open it to every team.
Among those jumping on board are former Met Mike Cameron, now of the Padres, and Barry Bonds. Of course, Yankee cyborg Mariano Rivera will be wearing the number, too. He’s the last player still on the field who wore No. 42 before it was retired at a Shea Stadium ceremony in 1997.
I noted that the Red Sox players should be forced to wait until August to wear the number to remind us all of how unenlightened the team was in taking forever to add a black player.
I loved Willie’s widely reported quote: "I said I’d have to fight whoever to get to wear No. 42. Anything associated with Jackie Robinson is an honor for me, and it will be a very special day to wear his No. 42."
Then it dawned on me I’d love the quote even more if it came from David Wright. Or Greg Maddux. Or Chipper Jones. Or Randy Johnson. Or Jim Thome. Or Pronk. Or Curt Schilling. Or any other star who happens to be white.
All of them benefited greatly the day Jackie Robinson bravely stepped on that field, not just the black players. Just like all of us are better off today because of the Rev. King’s life work.
And just once, I’d like to see someone recognize that.
It should be noted that the entire Dodger team is wearing No. 42 for that Sunday game against the Padres when Robinson’s legacy will be saluted. I think that’s a good idea. But I also wonder if it’s like telling the suburban school districts to conduct an assembly on King Day.