Last week was one of the more tumultuous weeks Major League Baseball has had in its history. Individual players and whole teams opted not to play their games for several nights from Wednesday into Friday.
They were joining similar actions in the WNBA, NBA, and NHL as athletes sat out in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. As it happened in baseball, these protests led into Jackie Robinson Day, the annual celebration of the man who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. It's typically held April 15, the anniversary of his debut, but because the coronavirus delayed the start of the season until late July, the day to commemorate Robinson was moved to Aug. 28.
That date also holds special significance. It's the anniversary of the day in 1945 when Robinson first met with Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey about the possibility of becoming the first Black player in the major leagues. And it's also the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, where Marting Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
Robinson's career was a dynamic one; he played from 1947 to 1956, winning Rookie of the Year in his first season, National League MVP in 1949, earning six consecutive All-Star appearances, and helping lead the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1955. He would regularly steal home, including in the first game of the '55 series.
Robinson died in 1972, and his tombstone in Brooklyn reads: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
There are many different barometers we could use to measure the success of our lives, but this is one of the better ones. Another that I've come across that runs in a similar vein is to focus on being useful, not important. Either way, I like the emphasis on making your life about the people around you. Robinson had plenty of laurels to rest on, but he didn't. Baseball in the United States was forever changed because of him, and by extension, so was our country.
Almost all of us won't have the opportunity to wield the kind of impact that Robinson did, but every one of us has a least a small circle we can help for the better. Sharing a happy or funny story with the people we work with, finding silver linings in the bad situations, being more patient and gracious with the people closest to us.
I've been re-reading Matthew B. Crawford's book "The World Beyond Your Head" and in it there's a chapter where he shares some David Foster Wallace's advice from his commencement address at Kenyon College. The gist of it is that we would benefit from making more deliberate effort to step outside of ourselves in frustrating situations like traffic and long checkout lines that cause frustration. There's a good chance at least one of the people I'm jockeying with on the road home from work has a much better reason to be in a hurry than I do, and it's good for me to remember that.
That's the kind of impact that I think all of us can have, and pretty easily. Robinson's epitaph might be a good mantra in a year that has not lacked for life-altering events and has left most of us feeling semi-agitated and worn out as a result.
Things I've Written Lately:
1. On Ryan Dempster's burgeoning comedy career. I had a really good time talking to him for this one.
2. On Lucas Giolito's no-hitter last Tuesday. This was the first White Sox no-hitter since Philip Humber threw a perfect game in April 2012. Giolito missed a perfect game by one walk last week!
3. On a group of MLB players donating their salaries on Jackie Robinson day last Friday. As players and teams were declining to play as an act of protest last week, some put that protest into action.
What I'm Digging Right Now:
1. I mentioned season one of After Life in the last issue, and Lindsey and I just finished season two a few nights ago. It builds really nicely on the first season; in fact, my only disappointment was that it's just six episodes. Word is that season three is set to start filming in spring 2021.
2. Another colorized photo, this time of kids climbing a tree to watch a game at Wrigley Field in 1932. I love the purity and simplicity of it, and the view of the cars in the street is pretty great too.
3. La Michoacana. You can buy their stuff at a few grocery stores in my area, but there's a standalone shop that I drive past almost every day. Credit to Lindsey for suggesting that we finally check it out.