One of the marvelous things about the game of baseball is that its heroes are so often a metaphor for the virtues of a well lived life. Babe Ruth overcame a broken family and a childhood spent in orphanages to swing his way into America’s homes. Then there was the Yankees’ great Lou Gehrig, whose farewell address remains the epitome of a generosity of spirit and grace even when facing the darkest personal crisis. These were some of the lessons my late father, whose birthday is today, taught me. In his own way, he defined for me the ideal of the courteous and civilized gentleman —a concept itself that seems to be vanishing as fast as its adherents.
Sunday saw the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As the first African American to play in the Major League, he taught us all something about character, determination and fairness and did it in a way that impressed everyone with his tremendous skills. This was not just the first man of color (as he was known at the time) to play in the big leagues. This was a giant who enlarged the whole game and the vistas that others saw for their lives.
For all the trailblazers who set a course upon uncharted and sometimes unfriendly waters —the women who sought, and still seek, equality of opportunity; the icons and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement; the champions of change who today are trying to save the planet; and the activists who are seeking to hold the powerful to account and standing against poverty and oppression in their communities and in far flung regions of the world— Jackie Robinson was, and remains, a shining symbol of courage and hope.
On Sunday, in homes and in hearts across the world, as it was in stadiums throughout America, we were all proud to call ourselves Number 42.