Baseball could take a lesson from its past

GRIFFIN – An eighth-grader stood in a school gymnasium Friday, accepting her award for an essay she wrote about what it took to overcome illness and family issues that would have crippled most.

Sharon Robinson talks about values and her late father, Jackie, to a group of middle school students in Griffin Friday. (John Spink/jspink@ajc.com)

Beside her and presenting the award was the daughter of Jackie Robinson, whose physical gifts were surpassed only by the courage and character it took to endure racial prejudices, shatter baseball’s color barrier and become one of the most revered figures in sports.

Today, baseball, the sport Robinson once graced, is tainted by too many athletes who can’t even overcome their own egos. It’s more important to the weak-minded likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and now Manny Ramirez, to satisfy their own statistical and economic urges than to do things the right way with integrity. Like Robinson. Like even Meagan Williams of Kennedy Road Middle School in Griffin.

“I’m sure my father would be very disappointed in the direction things have taken, not just in baseball, but in all of professional athletics,” Sharon Robinson said Friday. “He was a four-sport letterman at UCLA. He managed to go from a track meet to a baseball game in the same season and have to perform in both places — and he never would have thought about using any kind of artificial enhancement in order to make that happen.

“We live in a culture that has to change. We have to deal with it. Whether it’s social drugs or performance-enhancing drugs, you can’t deny it. You have to deal with it head on it and move on.”

Jackie Robinson was brought to the majors by Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey.

Jackie Robinson was brought to the majors by former Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey. (File photo)

Jackie Robinson retired from baseball after the 1956 season. Sharon was six-years old. She has few memories of her father as an athlete. She remembers going to spring training. She remembers going to a game, “but I can’t really remember anything about it.”

But there was the trophy case in the house and the framed picture of Jackie stealing home at the top of the staircase (see video below). And there always were fans asking for autographs.

Jackie Robinson was quiet. He seldom spoke to his children about the racism he faced daily, even as a baseball star. She only came to learn some details when she was nine-years-old and attended a day camp.

“It rained one day,” she said, “so they showed a movie: The Jackie Robinson story.”

In 1997, baseball celebrated the 50th anniversary of Robinson being the first in baseball’s modern era to break the color barrier. Sharon Robinson had been a midwife and educator for 20 years. But the anniversary was her entry into baseball. She threw out first pitches at games. She eventually went to work for Major League Baseball, in charge of educational programming, and started, “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life.”

The curriculum is based on her father’s nine values for success: determination, commitment, persistence, integrity, justice, courage, teamwork, citizenship and excellence. Williams, one of the winners in this year’s essay contest, wrote of her battles with Kawasaki disease as a youth and a broken home life. The essay was not made public. But Robinson said she referenced several problems involving her parents and “talked of needing courage just to come home.”

Baseball is trying to fix its problems. After years of seeing the number of African Americans in the sport decline, it’s finally on the up tick (it rose from 8.2 percent in 2007 to 10.2 percent last season).

And what of drug use? Robinson believes commissioner Bud Selig is determined to clean up the sport.

When asked if she thought baseball once turned a blind eye to steroid use, she smiled and said: “I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. So let’s just move on.”

Baseball is trying to move on. But it could use more reminders of the past.

Remember Jackie Robinson stealing home in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series?

Here it is:

45 comments Add your comment

Ted Striker

May 15th, 2009
8:05 pm

Man, I’d have loved to see Jackie Robinson steal home in person. Had there been internet, blogs and YouTube in 1955, we’d either be sipping margaritas on Mars by now, or we’d be back in the dark ages. No in-between.

Ken Stallings

May 15th, 2009
10:58 pm

If all were like Jackie Robinson, I would be proud if for the enternity of baseball that all players were African-American. However, black are like all people. A lot of good people, a few like Jackie Robinson, and fewer whom we’d like to forget.

For me it’s not a goal of how many players are African-Americans, or executives. But rather how many who have the desire are able to attain it. If they are unable to attain it due to talent, then I can accept that. If they are unable to attain it due to obstructions placed in their path then it’s an unacceptable tragedy.

But it’s no less tragic that having those same obstacles placed in any human’s path who wishes to obtain a dream, fulfill a desire. When Robinson played, many barriers were placed in his path. Through his skill and integrity he helped remove them.

Today, I’m more convinced it is entirely an issue of dreams lying on paths other than baseball. While we want to expand the appeal of baseball, we cannot confuse barriers with lack of desire. It is ultimately up to the kids to decide where their dreams lie. If the path remains available to all who desire it and it therefore comes down to their talent, then it’s the best we can achieve and we should be happy with it.

Howard

May 15th, 2009
11:11 pm

Jeff…enough already about the lack of black players in MLB. Do you ask that same question concerning the lack of whites in the NBA? Blacks are playing football and basketball instead of baseball because they stand a chance to make big money quicker in basketball than MLB. Face it you can be a superstar baseball player in high school or college and still find yourself laboring for peanuts for years in Bluefield, WVA or Medicine Hat, Idaho or Binghampton, NY!!! If black athletes thought they could make it quicker and hit the big money by playinghose baseball, then they would! Also throw in the competition that black athletes as well as white face from Hispanic and Oriental stars is more daunting in MLB than the NBA or NFL. How many of those aforementioned minorities do you see playing football or basketball??

Lew Moore

May 15th, 2009
11:29 pm

Ted Striker

May 15th, 2009
11:35 pm

## Ken Stallings, that’s some heavy analysis. I’d have to put my glass down and dry out to agree or disagree. Check back with me Monday night, I’m not yet ready to make that type commitment.

## Lew Moore — I’m laughing, laughing. I ain’t saying he was out, but he was a helluva lot safer than Jasper Sanks was fumbling to Tech back in the day.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 15th, 2009
11:42 pm

Funny how when a white guy writes about this topic, the comments are more or less civil towards the topic of discussion, whereas when Terence Moore wrote about the exact same thing, he was called all kinds of names and labeled a race-baiter…

Pago Flyer

May 16th, 2009
12:23 am

Well for sure we need more afros in baseball, basketball and football. And we should all afro coaches.!

BS Patrol

May 16th, 2009
12:37 am

Dang, I believe that’s ol’ Yogi behind the plate.

Ted Striker

May 16th, 2009
12:58 am

I agree with you Najeh — Terence would’ve likely have been unjustly vilified. TM frequently received undeserved criticism. That said, I wouldn’t click a link to read one of his columns on AOL unless I was bored enough to read about a two-headed goat involved in a drive-by shooting at a south dakota nursing home.

Terence’s writing never bothered me but alas, his columns didn’t “make me think” often enough either.. (Disclaimer and apology: I ain’t known for my thinkin’, mainly my drinkin’). Still, I’d certainly buy him a drink and probably enjoy hanging out with him very much. Terence is likely a stellar guy and way way better than some of these peanut gallery critics gave him credit for. Where-ever he is, I wish him well.

.D-Nice

May 16th, 2009
4:24 am

Can someone please tell me “what is an african american”? After that answer please tell me what is an American? YEs I said it. I am so sick of the term African American as I am an American just like my brothers with white pigmentation who were just like me, born in the great land we call USA.

Now I must comment about the lack of americans with dark skin tone playing baseball. When I grew up and probably still today most Little Leagues were based on where you live so of course blacks played with blacks and whites with whites and so forth. We would then meet each other in playoffs, etc….

Not until high school would I as a black person get to play on a team with my white brothers and we really enjoyed each other. The problem I had and saw was that some of the better players we had on my Little League team did not move on to play in high school as I did. I was pretty good myself but I knew there were others as good but for some reason or another they did not play in high school. There lies the issue that was brought up in the article. Its not a talent thing but there are some issues out there that is stopping the black baseball player from wanting to play. The majority of the white guys on my team were superstars in litte league and wanted to keep playing. I really liked their enthusiasm but wondered why the black guys did not play. Far from a racist but as I played high school then on to college I was the “token black baseball player” and it was strange.

We can say some played other sports but as beforementioned Jackie played 4 sports in college, Bo Jackson excelled, Deion excelled, and Dave Winfield was drafted in the 4 major sports. Last I checked the only sport going on during baseball season was soccer and track.

I dont see to many black guys walking out on the soccer field and track meets are infrequent and coaches would allow you to show up to meets if you played other sports. I in fact could have ran track if I wanted to but my freshman year in high school I played soccer even though I did not go to practice due to my baseball commitment.

Ponder over all that I have written and now we can see that the issue is to find out about what is intefering with black americans wanting to play baseball. Its not about the quick dollar because AROD makes 25 million and I dont know of many basketball players makint that. BJ Upton and Justin Upton (brothers) were selected 1 and 2 in different years and I know there parents are very happy especially with the signing bonus they received. SO the story of the Uptons and the other very rich baseball players refutes the argument of the quick dollar. There is talk of the pitcher from San Dieg State commanding a 20 million dollar signing bonuse as the top pick in this summers amatuer draft. That is insane but just shows you how much money there is to make in baseball especially at the four levels with 25 man rosters (A, AA, AAA, MLB).

WIth all being said the point is we have to fix the inner cities take kids off the streets and help them become productive members of society. Not all can be pro athletes but I assure you all can recieve and education.

My career as an athlete ended in college but today I am a productive member of society who trys to help out young men of all races.

Currently I am in Iraq serving our great nation but I still keep aware of the issues in my HOME the USA.

Excuse any grammar issues I may have used or spelling as I am not graded for this, just trying to put out info. And yes I do have a college degree (Accounting) and I serve as an officer in the US Army

P

May 16th, 2009
6:52 am

I’m disappointed in baseball and I don’t need Jackie Robinson, his daughter or a writer to tell me. In fact one reason I’m disappointed is all the pomp over retiring #32 for all teams and then every freakin player wears the number one night. That along with hip-hop pants and no socks. I’m tired of hearing about Jackie Robinson. I’m sick of hearing about a mediocre player from 50 years ago. I know what he did, I don’t need to hear it every day for the last 10 years. Enough already.

Baracked the vote!

May 16th, 2009
7:17 am

That would #42 not #32. you may be hearing it, but you ain’t listening.
I’m still trying to figure out why Shron gave Schultz the time to talk to her.

Stanger

May 16th, 2009
7:42 am

I’m so sick of hearing about Jackie Robinson. Sure he was a great player.And he was black, but he also just happened to be the first to cross the line. Good for him. If he hadn’t I can almost assure you that some other minority would have crossed. It’s silly that all stadiums have # 42 stcuk to the outfield wall, and it’s silly the players wear # 42 on their sleeve,and it’s silly to commemorate JR day every season.It happened, we are all gald that minorities play sports and have made other advances, but lets move on.

Haywood Jablowme

May 16th, 2009
8:15 am

Who cares, and what has his daughter ever done besides being born to a famous athlete? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Getaway

May 16th, 2009
8:48 am

I didn’t see much written in this article about the declining number of blacks in baseball. It was mostly about the declining amount of character. In that regard it could just as easily be about these times as it is about baseball. Certainly boorish behavior isn’t constrained to just sports and athletes.

PR man

May 16th, 2009
9:29 am

Looked out to me too. And I loved Jackie and what he did and stood for in baseball and race relations. Say it ain’t so.

PR man

May 16th, 2009
9:30 am

Bad call blue!

dave

May 16th, 2009
10:22 am

Where is Terence Moore now?

Ryno

May 16th, 2009
11:09 am

Baracked the Vote said: “I’m still trying to figure out why Shron gave Schultz the time to talk to her.”

Did you read the part where Schutlz wrote: “Sharon Robinson had been a midwife and educator for 20 years.” ??

It’s not like she’s some massive public figure whose appeal is far reaching. What else has she got to do? Be at work with the students at 7:00 – leave at 3:00. You hold her in too high esteem sir – her contributions were minimal compared to her father. I’m give credit to Schultz for even being able to track her down.

Harris

May 16th, 2009
11:17 am

Terrence Moore either writes about prejudice against blacks or how some black man was done wrong in 90% of his columns. That is why most people get tired of his rhetoric! Who cares what he says anymore. You know what he going to say before he says it. He needs to wake up and get a clue!!

Blacks and whites could live in peace if.......

May 16th, 2009
11:25 am

Is it some sort of a crime if black atheletes don’t take over every american sport? African americans dominate the NFL and the NBA while white atheletes tend to gravitate toward sports like golf and baseball. Thats just how its playing out in the 21st century. There is no conspiracy to keep blacks out of baseball. The fact is young black kids look up to lebron james and ladanian tomlinson moreso than ryan howard. They choose to play basketball and football because thats what they want to freakin play. The racial divide will continue between white and blacks if divisive issues like these are continuosly drummed up to try and frame some kind of racial inequality. I mean what would be said if a group of old white NBA players led by bob cousy started complaining about the dwindling number of white players in the NBA? Yes we all know how that would go over. So where is the racial equality in that? If you wish to be equal then act like an equal. Barack Obama is president of the United States because he knows that he is equal. Period. There were a lot of great African american baseball players in the 70’s and 80’s but in the last two decades the NFL and NBA have grown tremendously in popularity among all races. Could the decline in popularity of baseball and the tremendous growth of the NBA and NFL have anything to do with african american kids gravitating away from baseball? I think absolutely. Im old enough to remember at the end of the 1970’s that the NBA was in really big financial trouble but magic and bird helped solve that problem. The 1980’s NBA finals were not televised nationally! African american kids simply like football and basketball better than baseball. I think its really that simple.

Kem

May 16th, 2009
11:48 am

P,

Jackie Robinson mediocre? You’re joking, right! You also obviously do not have a concept of the historical significance of this in relationship to his impact on our society and culture.

chemdawg

May 16th, 2009
11:58 am

Did anyone else catch Yogi’s response to the umpire after the call. It looks like he intentionally hit the ump on the leg with his catcher’s mask while arguing!

NoleRick

May 16th, 2009
12:02 pm

Why does every topic on here eveutally ends up a race debate? Give it a rest people,I thought it was a great piece Jeff. We all know that Terence would have put a negative race spin such as “the Braves would be better if they had more than one brother on the team”.

Because It Matters

May 16th, 2009
12:19 pm

One sentence. There’s one sentence in the entire column about African-Americans participation in MLB slightly increasing and you’d swear that was the theme of the entire column.It was not.

What is was about is overcoming adversity.It was about courage in the face of enormous odds. What it was about was saying “no” to social and performance-enhancing drugs. What it was about was good ol’ fashion family values that are universal.It was about dignity and carrying oneself with grace.

Yet some of you want to make it about race and then blame it on other people.”Terrence Moore, blah blah, blah….”.

Howard, we’re in the 21st Century now and we don’t call people “Oriental” anymore than we call ourselves “Occidental”.Do you understand why? They would like to be called Asians, or better yet, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, et cetera.

Sooner or later, those of you who have deep-seated issues with people who look different than you are going to have to deal with the fact that this country, like the rest of the world, is getting darker. You will not be able to do much if you can’t respect and get along with “the other”.

One way is to approach and embrace common ground and universal values like the ones discussed in this column without resentment.

Earl

May 16th, 2009
12:29 pm

Kem…..Like earlier posters said, we all know, believe me, we all know the historical significance behind jackie robinson. But, it remains, his play was mediocre period.

springman

May 16th, 2009
2:32 pm

One of your very best pieces Jeff.

raymond

May 16th, 2009
2:42 pm

I get tired of hearing about the lack of blacks in MLB. Black kids see baseball as a white mans game and white kids see basketball as a black mans. Many will tell you it’s because whites can’t play basketball, but look at the number of white stars in the NBA and look at the success of the countries who have all white teams in international and olympic competition. It’s just something else for blacks to complain about. I’m also tired of hearing interviews with Henry Aaron that have to go into how blacks were treated in his time and the same for Jackie Robinson. You never hear them talk about where they would be if not for what baseball DID for them.

Boo Boo

May 16th, 2009
2:44 pm

Before they ran the Kentucky Derby (during the 5 hours of mostly worthless pre-race ESPN chatter), the announcers rambled onto a point about steroids use in horse racing. One announcer said that the reason the owners paid so much money for their horses was for pedigree. If a horse with pedigree won a race like the Kentucky Derby it would pay off most in breeding fees they could collect. Then he said steroids ruined that system. A horse on steroids is not assurred of siring anything more than a nag that will need steroids to compete. In short, steroids would fell the sport. Then, some $9,500 nag comes from dead last at the 3/4 post to win by seven lenghts. Some new horse owner, whose relative was sentenced in the Alaska senator’s trial for taking bribes to build a bridge to nowhere, packs his nag up and drives 20 hours to Kentucky, and by golley, he wins! A Hollywood story in the making! Right. Horseracing died when Mine That Bird was not stripped of the title, for having cheated to win.

Sharon Robinson is saying her dad was a pedigree athelete. Because of steroids its hard these days to tell one naturally thick neck from an artifically enhanced one. Owners and league managers see rea$on$ why to turn a blind eye. It is no longer about “the major league” sports being about fielding the best “naturals”. All professional sports have turned into professional wrestling … or horseracing. They are just pretending to be naturally phenominal. It is for entertainment purposes only. It is about Hollywood. The names of the characters are ficticious, and any resemblance to anyone real, living or dead, is only coincidental.

JD

May 16th, 2009
2:58 pm

haha…look at Yogi go.

Ryder

May 16th, 2009
3:04 pm

I think what people like P and Stanger are still upset that their Great White Hope Babe Ruth and other whites who played the game before integration are no longer revered because they have been trumped by better black players such as Robinson, Willie Mays, and Bob Gibson.

Besides, had white people back then (and even now) weren’t so racist this would’ve never been an issue now would it?

That said, I think baseball should bring to light all of the great pioneers, black, latino, and asian who first entered the sport.

Ted Striker

May 16th, 2009
4:11 pm

I think baseball should recognize wife-beater wearing, mayonnaise sandwich eating bloggers who’d attempt to make a racial statement out of an eclipse or a snowstorm.

truth

May 16th, 2009
4:58 pm

Ryder, I guess you conveniently forgot all the great white players after integration. How about mickey mantle, ted williams, sandy koufax, pete rose, mike schmidt, george brett, etc.. etc… etc… All of these arguments come down to the fact that blacks will always need a crutch. They will always wine and cry and claim they have been shortchanged. Not enough black players in major league baseball because of some white man conspiracy blah… blah… blah… Just can’t except the fact that baseball is a sport that whites excel in and that blacks seem to be declining in for whatever reason. Just the facts. Blacks are better at football and basketball and I have no problems excepting that truth. Blacks have to be the most paranoid and insecure race on planet earth.

Ted Striker

May 16th, 2009
5:04 pm

And just like that, we have a winner!

scottbravesfan

May 16th, 2009
6:49 pm

You know that White American numbers have went down in major league baseball too. It’s because the game is so international now. Latins, Asians, and even Australians are on major league rosters now.

Also one thing a lot of people are forgetting look at all of the minority managers that baseball has. There are 10 out of 30 managers that are some sort of minority. Hell the manager in Seattle is Asian! That to me is a great thing as it shows everyone is getting a chance. Also there is an assistant general manager for the Dodgers that is an Asian female and in the next 5 years she will be the first female general manager in all of sports. You can accuse Major League Baseball of a lot of things but not being equal opportunity is not one of them. Both managers in Texas are African American, I guarrantee you won’t see both NFL franchises in Texas with black managers or head coaches.

scottbravesfan

May 16th, 2009
6:51 pm

Ryder,

Are you serious? Do you live in Atlanta? Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones are each regarded as two of the best who ever pitched and played 3rd base and I’m pretty sure they are white.

P

May 16th, 2009
10:15 pm

Jeff,
When are you guys going to get tough on major leaguers about the use of tobacco? It’s so hippocritical of baseball to allow Jeff Bennett, Chipper Jones and others to have this obvious blob of crap in their mouth and do nothing about it. All the while thousands of kids see that on TV and want to do the same. Also all the while they “ban” steroids. Another reason Jackie would be disappointed. Or did he chew also? I’m sick of watching it.

BS Patrol

May 17th, 2009
12:31 am

Hey Schultz, How come you took down my post & left bravehater’s up? Same old double standard I suppose.
Pro baseball is about the sorriest sport there is anyway. Spit, scratch,adjust,step out of the box. I’d rather watch a curling match. I mean there is absolutely no strike zone.
The only pro sport fit to watch is golf.
I’d rather watch any Tech or Ga game or any college game than the Super Bowl, World Series or NBA championship anyday.

[...] she wrote about what it took to overcome illness and family issues that would have crippled most.Read more…  Mail this post var UserClicked=false; document.onkeydown=spy; document.onmousedown=spy; [...]

.D-Nice

May 17th, 2009
7:01 am

Why is the theme racist now. Its not about who has the best players white or black. Also I have to call out the people who said that the rookie of the year was mediocre (LMAO). You really must be hallucinating. For your eyes I have posted the info for you to tell me who was mediocre. Maybe it was your baseball career that was just that. I am willing to bet that if you and I play even after having rotator cuff surgery, that you would not put up the numbers that I put up. Yes I am challenging any racist be it black or white to a game of baseball. I re-deploy to the states in December so we can play. Maybe we can get the Braves be the judge sort of like a reality show or something. I can see the headlines. A 33 year old Army Officer goes against some racist who said Jackie Robinson was mediocre. The winner gets a 10 day contract with the Braves. Hint.. you dont stand a chance against me, trust me, and I am a black man of exceptional talent and brains.

Apart from his cultural impact, Robinson had an exceptional baseball career. He played on six World Series teams, including a World Championship with the Dodgers in 1955. He was also selected for six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954,[5] was the recipient the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and won the National League MVP Award in 1949 – the first black player so honored.[6] Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson

Baracked the vote!

May 17th, 2009
11:00 am

Ryno, did you read the part where she is the director of Educational Programming for Major League Baseball?
She has also written two books. the question should be, “who the heck is Jeff Schultz?”

Jeff Schultz

May 17th, 2009
12:50 pm

BS — you had a word in there I object to. Figure it out.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

May 17th, 2009
1:27 pm

Jeff, nice article. I enjoyed reading it.

I’ll just add a couple of comments and run.

Baseball is still juiced. The steroid era isn’t over, not by a long shot.

Yogi had the glove down and the ball. Jackie was out.

Ross

May 17th, 2009
5:53 pm

We need more AfAms in baseball – they make it fun with speed and athleticism and just the fun of being out there. We need more EuroAms in basketball for their toughness and defense (think Laimbeer and Ainge). Why this polarization has occurred is a complete mystery to me. I hope it fixes itself. Hockey died when they tinkered with the rules – auto racing was already dead for the same reason – and baseball could die from just being too boring (no defense, no small ball, no brains).

innocuous link

May 19th, 2009
3:28 am

AJC.com (and it’s readers)are absolutely obsessed with racialism.

The answer to the Braves leadoff problem…Reid Gorecki-

http://minorsandmajors.com/2009/729/braves-beat-romero-ironpigs-43