Mystery Guest

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Saturday, April 14, 2007

So, yesterday, we caused a little uproar in that we did not post for the first weekday in a while. Well, it was not to stir up excitement for this post, as we did want to do this yesterday.

Life got in the way...so today, you get the newest edition of...



THE COUCH NOTE: Unlike our last episode, this one is just too darn hard to hide....




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"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
- Our Guest


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We are pleased to bring you his life today. Born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia the youngest of five children to Jerry and Mallie. One of his brother's, Mack, was a world-class sprinter and came in second to Jesse Owens in the 200-yard dash at the 1936 Olympics.

When our guest was 13 months old, his dad, Jerry, left the family. His mother took the kids and got on the railroad to head to Pasadena, California. Our guest learned self-respect and self-confidence in an environment not as segregated as Georgia, but still filled with restrictions.

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"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me...
All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

-Our Guest


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Two men took our guest under their wings when the young boy began running with the wrong crowd. The got him involved in sports. Karl Downs, youthful minister of the Methodist Church counseled him when our guest's athletic, social or academic life became burdensome. The other was Carl Anderson, a neighborhood mechanic.

He began playing soccer as a fourth-grader, playing against sixth-graders. he also played football, tennis, basketball, track, and table tennis. his skills in these sports opened the doors to his white classmates homes.

After winning letters in football, baseball, basketball and track at Muir Technical high School and Pasadena Junior College, he decline offers from universities nationwide to attend UCLA, just an hour's drive from his mom;s home.

In his two years at UCLA he was the highest scorer in the Pacific Coast conference in basketball, a national chamion long jumper, the first four-letter athlete in UCLA's history, All-American football halfback and varsity baseball shortstop.

Due to financial pressures, he left school just a few credits short of his degree in 1941.

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"He opened the door of baseball to all men. He was the first to get the opportunity, but if he had not done such a great job, the path would have been so much more difficult."
- Monte Irvin


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He traveled to Hawaii to play semi-pro football with the Honolulu Bears and work in construction, but came back to the mainland right after the attack on Pearl harbor. He was drafted in 1943 and sent to a segregated unit in Kansas. While there Joe Louis, the heavyweight boxing champion, and other influential people, including Truman Gibson, an African-American advisor to the secretary of war, protested that African-Americans could not enter Officer's Candidate School. This policy was changed and out guest entered the program and was commissioned a lieutenant in 1943.

A racially charged incident at Fort Hood, Texas, threatened to discredit our guest's service record, when in defiance of a bus driver's command to go to the rear of the bus, he refused to leave his seat. A life-long tee-totaler and non-smoker, he was charged, originally, with public drunkenness, conduct unbecoming an officer, and willful disobedience. With a public outcry by fellow service men, the NAACP, and the black press, led by the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender, the court martial ended in exoneration. However, instead of going to meet with black soldiers in the European Theater of Operations as he desired, his next assignment was athletic director to new recruits at various camps in this country. He left the service in November 1944 with an honorable discharge.

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In 1984, Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded our guest the Presidential Medal Of Freedom

"The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time. - Our Guest

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In 1945 our guest joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American league and played with people like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and "Piper" Davis.

At this time, Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers was looking for an African American to join Major League Baseball.

Many semi-pro baseball teams of the time were integrated, but the owners of major league baseball had a "gentleman's agreement" at the time to not integrate the majors. This was in their narrow-minded view, an attempt to discourage racially charged at their games. Some teams tried to break this pact by playing dark-skinned Cubans who would have been banned, except for the fact that they did not speak English.

Mr. Rickey met with our guest for three hours in August of 1945. To test our guest, he yelled demeaning words and phrases at him to note his reaction. At the end of their conversation, he quoted the biblical passage regarding turning the other cheek. It is reported that part of this conversation went as such:

"Mr. Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who's afraid to fight back?"
Rickey shot back, "I want a ballplayer with guts enough not
to fight back. You will symbolize a crucial cause. One incident, just one incident, can set it back 20 years."

Former players have spoken publicly of votes by most National League teams whether to go on strike when the black man took the field. Had it not been for the leadership of Rickey, National League President Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, and players like Stan Musial, the course of professional baseball might have taken a different turn.

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"I don't believe in barring Negroes from baseball just because they are Negroes."
- "Happy" Chandler

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In 1946, our guest went north to Montreal, Quebec Canada to play for the Dodger's minor league team, the Royals. He led the International league in batting average and fielding percentage.

Although our guest was more famous for his career in Brooklyn, he always had a special appreciation for the city of Montreal, Canada where he played as part of the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers' top farm team. Although that season was emotionally very difficult with all the racist hostility he faced, he enjoyed the loud, enthusiastic and unwavering support of the home city which made it a welcome refuge where he was treated as the local hero and celebrity.

It was also during this time that he married Rachel Isum and their first son was born.

Statue outside Montreal's Olympic Stadium




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He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1991.

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The following season, baseball history was made when our guest took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After keeping silent for a period of time, he began to speak up as pitchers threw at his head, fans shouted down racial slurs and obscene mail began coming to his home. Even his own teammates made his life difficult.

One player who stood by his side was Pee Wee Reese, who is quoted as saying "You can hate a man for many reason, color is not one of them."

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On October 29, 2003, the United States Congress posthumously awarded him the
Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award the Congress can bestow.
His widow accepted the award in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on March 2, 2005.


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He excelled on the field during his first season, despite the difficult environment. He was selected as the league's most outstanding rookie, though he was playing first base instead of his usual position at second base. He led the National League in steals, with twenty-nine. At the end of his first season, a national poll found him to be the second most popular celebrity in the United States, behind the singer Bing Crosby. He was named the National League's "Rookie of the Year," honored with a "Day" for Dodger fans, and featured on the cover of Time magazine.

During his time with the Dodgers, they won National League Pennants in 1947. 1959, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956. They won the World Series in 1955.

His loyalty to the Dodgers was shown when, in 1956, the Dodgers worked out a trade to send him the the rival Giants and our guest retired.

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"The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball with me.
The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it."
-Our Guest

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His legacy does not end there kiddies....after retiring, he was head of the personnel office of the Chock Full O'Nuts restaurant company. He was also active in Harlem's YMCA program and a key figure in establishing and running the now defunct Freedom Bank.

While he had deep affection for rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and felt the pain of his suffering, he knew that his own temperament was not suited for King's nonviolent demonstrations. He preferred to volunteer time as head of fund raising drives for churches in Georgia destroyed by arsonists.

His political alliances were unlike those of most African Americans who shied away from the Republican Party. He campaigned for Democrat Hubert Humphrey in the presidential primary, yet he chose Republican Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy in the 1960 general election.

Two incidents during the 1960 campaign were quite disillusioning to Robinson. In one incident Nixon was asked to comment on a statement by running mate Henry Cabot Lodge who stated that in a Nixon Administration a black would be named to the Cabinet; Nixon commented that Lodge was speaking on his own behalf. Later during the campaign Nixon refused to speak out when civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was locked in a full-security prison for a minor motor vehicle infraction.

Further Nixon refused to campaign in Harlem (while Kennedy did). These incidents drew Robinson a great deal of criticism from the African American community for his support of the Nixon campaign. By the end of the campaign the Kennedy ticket was looking more attractive to Robinson, but he had already committed to Nixon.

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In 2000, he ranked number 44 on The Sporting News's list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

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His last public appearance was on October 15, 1972, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, when he threw out the first ball in the 1972 World Series. Nine days later, rescuers were unable to revive him from what would be the fatal heart attack that struck when he was 53-years old in his Stamford home on October 24, 1972.

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Ten years ago Major League Baseball retired his number 42 from all baseball rosters. Only those players who were wearing the number at that time were allowed to continue. Today, only one player remains in baseball wearing the #42, Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.

That will change for one day tomorrow, April 15, 2007, the 60th Anniversary of our guest's first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. For one day, baseball has taken the suggestion of Ken Griffey, Jr. and are allowing players to war the #42 to honor the day.

IN FACT, the entire rosters of the Los Angeles Dodgers will wear the number 42. It has also been reported that the entire rosters for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinal, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh pirates will also honor our guest by wearing his number that day.

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In 1987, Major League Baseball renamed the Rookie Of The Year Award in his honor.

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Ladies and Gents, no surprise our guest today is the man who broke the color barrier in major League baseball and changed our national pastime for the best...

Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson
(January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972)

"There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free. "

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SOME OF HIS STATS:
  • member of six World Series teams.
  • Jackie earned six consecutive All-Star Game nominations
  • In 1947, Robinson won The Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award.
  • In 1947 he won the first MLB Rookie of the Year Award Award
  • In 1949, Jackie was awarded his first National League MVP Award.
Tomorrow, remember this great man, as all of Major League Baseball celebrates his legacy.

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CREDITS:
Information compiled from:
ESPN.com
THOMPSON GALE.com
WIKIPEDIA.com
TIME.com
TSN.com
NEGRO LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION.com

BOYS OF SUMMER
Eagles
Composers: Mike Campbell & Don Henley

CENTERFIELD
John Fogerty
Composer: John Fogerty

HEADER: VEM2007

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19 Of Your Sparks

  1. Turnbaby Says:
  2. LOL at the 'Southern' from yesterday's 'teaser'

    Nice post Bondbaby--glad you took your time with it--he deserves it. His courage and fortitude along with the others who made it possible were a gift to everyone.

    Smooch

     
  3. Meribah Says:
  4. I may not follow baseball, but even I've heard of Jackie Robinson! Nice post.

     
  5. Starrlight Says:
  6. That was a lovely tribute to a true American hero. Nice job Bond!

     
  7. Bond Says:
  8. TURN: Well, I am Southern ya know...
    TY, yes they were...
    SMOOCH

    MERI: Well, I hear puppies like to play with balls, so I figured you would know... TY

    STARR: TY... nice to see you back and internetting again...

     
  9. Dana Says:
  10. Wow, that was great! I hope you do more of these! What impresses me most about Jackie Robinson is that he didn't want to be the best *black* baseball player but he wanted to be the *best* period. And he was.

     
  11. Vin-
    This is an outstanding tribute to a man who found the inner strength to help all mankind.

    42 forever!

    Bud

     
  12. didn't he used to be a baltimore oriole? hey! is this sports and i have an actual question? whooooo. what about that? and the cruise was wonderful, thank you very much! oh! i just remembered, it was brooks robinson and frank robinson that were orioles, see? i got it!

    smiles, bee

     
  13. Tug Says:
  14. I got goosebumps reading about all who will wear his # tomorrow. NICE.

     
  15. Travis Says:
  16. Outstanding tribute to a fine American. Glad you took your time with this.

    I also think this Mystery Guest idea is great for your rotating Friday themes.

    Nice job!

     
  17. Mags Says:
  18. I couldn't think of a better person to pay tribute to this great man. Great post Bond!

     
  19. TopChamp Says:
  20. I didn't know about him already - so it was interesting to read your post - and you had a lot to write about with this man.

     
  21. busy91 Says:
  22. Baseball posts go right over my head! But I know Robinson....of course!

     
  23. the108 Says:
  24. Jackie Robinson.... WOOT! What an amazing life and career he had. Wow.

    As you can probably tell... I was let back in today...lol.

     
  25. Piacere Says:
  26. Always love this story, Mr. B. Thanks for a great read...brings a little sunlight to this dreary weekend. Guido always talks about Branch Rickey and his vision for the future of baseball. Thank the good Lord he found Jackie when he did.

    SMOOCH!

     
  27. Bond Says:
  28. DANA: Yes, very astute observation.
    TY

    BUD: TY, was looking forward to seeing all the #42's on the field today...unfortunately the weather is not cooperating on the east coast.

    BEE: You got it correct eventually - LOL

    TUG: Yes, unfortunately most of the east coast games are rained out.

    MAGS: TY ty tyvm

    TOPCHAMP: There was so much more I could have written, some of the stories of the abuse he suffered both on and off the field, the ugly comments made by even some of his teammates...wanted to keep this positive though.

    BUSY: See, I didn;t even consider this a baseball post.. but a human post.

    108: Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed.

    PIA: I gotta meet this Guido... I think I will like him.

     
  29. Dixiechick Says:
  30. Dayum... I'm so smart. I knew this the very instant that you posted on Friday...

    Excellent post about a wonderful man who did what no other had done before him.

     
  31. Anndi Says:
  32. Little fact about the relationship between The Robinsons. Rachel Robinson didn't call her husband Jackie, feeling that calling him by his given name, Jack, was far more intimate... I'd wager she was right.

    I've stood in front of that statue (in my hometown) and felt great pride that he was seen for what he was, a great player... a great man.

    Thanks for not 'forgetting' the role Montrealers played in that glorious piece of history (even if it is about baseball).

    Kiss

     
  33. Judd Corizan Says:
  34. Congratulations! This post has been selected as our “Post of the Day” on “The Rising Blogger”. It is a brand new site that awards posts, not blogs. We have emailed your winning badge, and all our info. To reach “The Rising Blogger” site:

    http://therisingblogger.blogspot.com

    Have a great week!
    Judd

     
  35. Tammie Jean Says:
  36. Hi Bond! What a great tribute to a great man. Congratulations on your well-deserved award from The Rising Blogger! I'm looking forward to checking out your other posts...

     

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