Jackie Robinson’s legacy looms over All-Star Game in LA

Jul 18, 2022, 4:12 AM | Updated: 4:15 pm

FILE - This March 4, 1946, file photo shows Jackie Robinson of the Montreal Royals baseball team, i...

FILE - This March 4, 1946, file photo shows Jackie Robinson of the Montreal Royals baseball team, in Sanford, Fla. Already at the forefront on the 75th anniversary of breaking baseball’s color barrier, Jackie Robinson’s life, legacy and impact is honored as part of the 2022 baseball All-Star Game in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Bill Chaplis, File)

(AP Photo/Bill Chaplis, File)

              From left, Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Sims, retired All-Stars Andre Dawson and Tim Raines, Negro Leagues Museum president Bob Kendrick, former All-Stars Edwin Jackson and Jimmy Rollins pose for fans after a panel, Monday, July 18, 2022, on the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ Beth Harris)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The legacy of Jackie Robinson showed in Major League Baseball’s draft, with four Black players among the first five selected for the first time in history.

Six of the first 18 players chosen as well as nine players taken in the first round are Black. All of them are alumni of MLB’s diversity development programs.

That’s considered progress in a sport that has a smaller percentage of Black players now than any year since the early 1990s.

“It’s nice to see athletes sticking around after the age of about 12 or 13 continuing to play baseball because we need more of them,” former All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins said Monday.

But Robinson likely would still not be satisfied.

On the 25th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he criticized MLB for not yet hiring a Black manager or helping Black players establish careers after their playing days ended. Robinson’s comments at the 1972 World Series came in his last public appearance before his death days later at age 53.

“Here we are now, 50 years since, we have two Black managers,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, citing Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros.

“Naturally, he would be disappointed because he wouldn’t see the things that he and others had fought so diligently for, to create opportunities,” Kendrick said of Robinson. “We’re still not really seeing those opportunities.”

Kendrick joined former All-Stars Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Rollins and Edwin Jackson, along with Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Sims, to discuss Robinson’s life and impact at Playball Park inside the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of All-Star festivities.

A standing-room only crowd listened intently while surrounded by thumping music, blaring announcers and fans testing their batting and fielding skills.

“We lose a lot of athletes to the other sports because we’re not promoted,” Rollins said, singling out football and basketball. “One thing we’ve always felt as Black athletes we say, ‘You always have to be the starter. You’re not going to find us on the bench.'”

A May report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports said 38% of all MLB players on opening day this season were players of color, an 0.4% increase over a year ago. About 28.5% of players were Hispanic or Latino, 7.2% were Black and 1.9% were Asian.

Robinson’s presence will loom large over Tuesday’s All-Star game at Dodger Stadium, where the Hall of Famer is honored with a statue.

His legacy will be included in the pregame ceremonies. His widow, Rachel, turns 100 that day and her birthday will be recognized during the game. The Jackie Robinson Foundation will receive a check for over $800,000 from sales of the Sony video game “MLB The Show.”

“The Jackie Legacy” airs Wednesday on MLB Network featuring interviews with former All-Star Bo Jackson, former President Bill Clinton, filmmaker Spike Lee and former commissioner Bud Selig discussing Robinson’s impact on baseball, civil rights and society.

Kendrick credited Rachel Robinson for her ability to survive the public harassment of the era.

“While Jackie may have never publicly broke down, you can almost rest assured that was the shoulder that he cried on,” he said. “Just the sheer strength that she demonstrated sitting in that stadium listening to all these folks say these nasty things about her husband, and he was nothing like what they wanted him to be portrayed as, and yet she found the will to be able to sit and endure all of that as well.”

Born in Georgia and raised in Pasadena, California, Robinson became the first Black to play in the majors when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers 75 years ago, ending the racial segregation in pro baseball that had kept Black players in the Negro Leagues dating to the 1880s.

During his 10-year career, Robinson was the target of rough play by opposing teams, racist obscenities, hate mail and death threats. He ultimately silenced critics with his play and his belief in nonviolence.

“Coming up from a different environment, I used to be mad at Jackie, like why didn’t he fight back? I would’ve done something,” said Rollins, who grew up in a Black neighborhood in Oakland, California. “But as I got older, I understood 21 million people he was carrying on his back and he could not fail. They waited for one reason and he never gave it to them. Because of that, I’m thankful we’re here.”

Dawson recalled receiving hate mail during his years with the Chicago Cubs from 1987-92.

“Some of the things that were said you just shake your head,” he said.

If Robinson was alive today, Raines said he’d ask him, “How do you take that on and deal with it?”

Jackson added, “He absorbed everybody’s pain. He was the shield for the bomb and he took that bomb for us to be able to play today.”


More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

Jackie Robinson’s legacy looms over All-Star Game in LA