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On Jackie Robinson Day

Eleven things you might consider doing to honor one of baseball's greatest players and individuals.


It's Jackie Robinson Day. Baseball and real life don't intersect that often -- don't know about you, but I use baseball as an escape from real life -- so it's important to set aside at least one day and think about baseball in the context of bigger things. An incomplete list of things you can do today:

1. Read about Jackie Robinson and his amazing life and career. This is a good place to start.

2. Stare at his Baseball Reference page for a while. He was Mike Trout playing a mean second base. Sometimes it's easy to forget that he was a brilliant baseball player in addition to an important historical figure.

3. Go see 42 for me because I won't have time until next week. I'm itching to see it, and I've been avoiding all the reviews.

4. After watching 42, try rewriting Branch Rickey's lines into things that Han Solo would say. Before: "Your enemy will be out in force. But you cannot meet him on his own low ground." After: "Besides, attacking institutionalized racism is not my idea of courage. It's more like … suicide."

5. Realize that there are some Giants fans out there who get really offended by Jackie Robinson Day because he's a Dodger. I'm not sure if that is a step forward for race relations (because Robinson's team affiliation defines him more than his race! Hooray!) or a step back (because it's a really stupid thing to think).

6. Argue with someone on the Internet about whether Robinson was safe or not in the '55 World Series. Suggested argument starter: "Safe." Also, "Out."

7. When someone brings up the story about Jackie Robinson retiring instead of joining the Giants, remind them that there were a lot of factors to his decision to retire, including an offer to be an executive for the Chock Full O' Nuts company. Before the Giants traded for him, he had already sold the story of his retirement to Look magazine, for example.

8. But do point out that Robinson refused to play for the 2005 Giants after Brian Sabean signed him as a free agent.

9. Take the time to read up on Monte Irvin, the first African-American Giants player. It doesn't take anything away from Robinson's courage to explore the histories of the team-by-team pioneers, too.

10. Read Dusty Baker on Robinson. I don't miss Dusty as a tactician, but I sure miss him as a compelling baseball figure, and I'm usually interested in what he has to say about anything.

11. Appreciate Jackie Robinson. His career as a baseball player, his career after he was a baseball player, and the amazing balance he walked between being strong enough to put up with the nonsense, and strong enough to resist lashing out.

There isn't even a small part of me that regrets it was the Dodgers that chose to break the barrier, as if it's embarrassing that they get the plaudits and hosannas on a day like this. It's better that it Robinson was on the Dodgers because it highlights exactly how trivial baseball and team allegiances are when compared to the things that are actually important.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day, everyone.