Here's to you, Mr. Robinson...the sporting world owes you one and then some!
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where the baseball and softball teams have not retired the #42, instead each year bestowing the honor of wearing the number to the players that best exemplify the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
If you saw any baseball highlights on Sunday, you saw that every player was wearing the number #42, the number that has been retired by every team in the major leagues since 1997. The Dodgers of course were the first team to have retired his number doing so in 1972. I have long maintained that America as a whole owes so much more to Jackie Robinson that they really know. Jackie Robinson broke the supposed color line in 1947 something that would not have happened under the first baseball commissioner the virulently racist Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Bill Veeck wanted to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 and stock it with Negro League players. Landis got wind of the plan and made sure that the sale didn’t go through. Instead it went to lumberman Bill Cox who was soon banished from baseball himself for betting on games. In any case, with Landis’ death in late 1944 the new commissioner Happy Chandler allowed the Brooklyn Dodgers to sign Robinson to their minor league farm team in Montreal in late 1945. Robinson was no greenhorn, a highly accomplished athlete in the three sports football track and baseball he had fought and won a court-martial trial while in the Army for refusing to move to the back of the bus when ordered by a civilian bus driver. (Keep that factoid in mind) Robinson was signed by Branch Rickey and asked him did he want someone who would fight back when lashed with the slurs that both knew would happen “No,” Rickey replied “I want someone brave and smart enough not to.” Robinson endured in spite of spineless taunts by then Phillies manager Ben Chapman a team that still was horrid four years after nearly being an all black team themselves. And endured a threatened walkout by a number of St. Louis Cardinals. Robinson endured and won the 1947 Rookie of the Year and the 1949 MVP. He and Larry Doby who was signed by the Cleveland Indians (owned by Bill Veeck) paved the way for players of color both of American and Latin heritage to play the game of baseball. I was born less than a month before Jackie Robinson died at the age of 53, blinded by diabetes and soul aged prematurely by the stress that being a trailblazer had put on his body, I could not have fully appreciated what Robinson meant to the game as well as society at large. I could only reap the benefits and roll down the highway that he had help lay out.
But the path blazed by Robinson and Doby did so much more. Without them paving the way in such a high profile sport, you don’t have Marion Motley who signed with the Cleveland Browns in the AAFC (under considerably less fanfare) be as widely accepted when the Browns moved to the NFL in 1950. Robinson made his debut in 1947 when a young man in Georgia was just about to head to Morehouse College, his name? Martin Luther King Jr. Robinson's trailblazing was the foundation on which King would lay trailblazing of his own. People cite King rightly as the father of the 20th Century Civil Rights movement, but in his later years he did cite Robinson's play as the foundation for what he would achieve and work towards. Robinson’s path made it possible for the test cases of Brown vs Board of Education the landmark desegregation cases to be created and won. Rosa Parks may have just been tired and not wanted to give up her seat in 1955 but Robinson’s precedent was cited in her case. Players like Chuck Cooper might not have had an avenue to the NBA where Bill Russell would eventually be the first person of color to be the coach of a major American Sporting team. You can draw the line from Jackie Robinson to every pioneering accomplishment made by people of color all the way to the man in the White House. America is better for what Jackie did, period and though the numbers of people of color are significantly lower (A topic for another Hoodwood column) they owe everything to this man. This is not something that only Blacks should celebrate and lionize all sporting fans owe a debt to Jackie Robinson.
Bobby V: The stupidest manager in baseball
I chronicled my intense dislike for Ozzie Guillen last week, I still think of him a jibber-jabbering fool but less so as he is now the manager of the Florida Marlins, a team that unless they get to the World Series against my beloved Twins I could care less about. The manager I have re-elevated to the title of Stupidest Manager in baseball is one that has had in my mind for years. Bobby Valentine, the grinning preening manager of the Boston Red Sox who has been an abrupt departure from the laid back style of Terry Francona who was run from Boston after 8 memorable seasons following a stunning fall from playoff contention after a disastrous September which saw the Sox give away a sizeable wild card lead to the Tampa Bay Rays. Francona has been determined to be too lax in his managerial style and the uber intense Valentine was brought in to rouse some esprit de corps to the Sox. Instead, all Valentine has done is ruffle feathers and make things even more uncomfortable in Beantown. His latest mindless ploy calling out innocuous veteran Kevin Youkilis for what he determined as “passionless play”. Valentine questioned the Sox 3rd baseman’s physical and emotional commitment to the game during an interview Saturday. Many pundits, your humble scribe included wondered what planet Valentine was coming from. Youkilis is off to a less than stellar .200 start to the season. Many have say that Youk may have been too passionate at times. Valentine hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts with his team and their fan base and calling out a fan favorite is not the smartest things for him to do. Not like Ive ever thought anything that Valentine has done managerially has ever been smart. Now some might think that Im being biased since Youkilis is a former Cincinnati Bearcat. Combined with my dislike of Valentine, many may see this as a bit of a jaded criticism. But I think the Valentine is going after a less than vocal player to try to make an example. Would he do something like that David Ortiz? If Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez were still in that clubhouse would he call them out. Youkilis could always pull out either or both of his World Series rings and ask pointedly how many of them that he has. The answer being zero. Valentine did get the Mets to the 2000 Fall Classic where they were easy roadkill for the Yankee Dynasty in progress. Ive always been annoyed with Valentine’s style, his supposed superior baseball intellect that makes him allegedly one of the better managers in MLB. Ive always thought of him as overrated. Oh wow he won a couple Japanese Central League titles. Put that team against the Cards, Angels, or Yankees or at least a third of the MLB teams and they would get their clock cleaned. Winning Japan aint the same as winning in MLB. After winning the 2005 Japanese title with the Chiba Lotte Marines he challenged the 2005 World Series Champ Chicago White Sox to a best of 7 series. The Pale Hose ignored the challenge. Valentines record of 1112-1077 is barely above .500 why do people think he is such a great manager?
NHL: Penguins/Canucks on the brink?
Its sad, so sad to see such a quality team like the Pens reduce themselves to brawling and cheap shots. Their Eastern conference quarterfinal matchup against hated instate rival Philadelphia has made them into a one trick pony, a trick that they cant even do that well. The Pens had home ice advantage in the 4-5 matchup but the series is looking more like a 1-8 matchup with the Flyers making the Pens look like goony birds on the ice. Witness the fall from ahead game 1 in Pittsburgh where a rockin’ Consol Energy Arena saw the Penguins race to a 3-0 first period lead only to see the Flyers rally for 3 goals of their own and an overtime winner to snatch home ice advantage from the Pens with a 4-3 game one lead. The fortunes of the 108 point team got darker as the Flyers pounded Marc-Andre Fluery for 7 goals after falling behind again in the first by the count of 3-1. The 8-5 win put the Flyers up 2-0 heading home. Game 3 Sunday was a joke, on the Pens that is. The Pens seemed out of sync, confused and disjointed content more to avenge fights and supposed wrongs inflicted upon them by the Flyers who are enjoying the role as bully. Superstar Sidney Crosby seemed to be looking for fights instead of looking to bury the biscuit in the basket and had more penalty minutes than shots on goal. The 8-4 game 3 Flyers win was fight filled and entertaining but the Flyers were doing more than talking shit, they were lighting the lamp and sending their fans home happy. The Pens have led in every game and someone needs to put out an APB for Evgeni Malkin, the 109 point regular season scorers has zero goals and four assist in the 3 losses. The Pens are on the brink and word is here that they are already done.
Out west the Canucks are looking even worse. The 2012 Presidents trophy winner and defending Western Conference champ are on the brink of a humiliating sweep by the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings??? Are they still in this league? They barely made the playoffs in the West needing late flameouts by Calgary and Dallas to back into the #8 slot. They were supposed to be road kill for the Canucks whose balanced scoring attack led by the Sedin brothers and the heretofore flawless goaltending of Roberto Luongo was an overmatch, a sweep was expected but not by the Kings who have been riding the goaltending of the unassuming Jonathan Quick who seems to keep turning away shot after shot the Canucks pepper him with and with a 1-0 game 3 win Sunday evening has the Kings on the verge of one of the more shocking upsets in recent Stanley Cup playoff history. Home ice has meant little as all but one of the home ice advantage teams have lost their edge, the Predators got theirs back Sunday with a tight 3-2 win over the Wings in Detroit to gain their home ice edge back. It will be interesting indeed to see if the home teams can get their mojo back. I think in the cases of the Canucks and Pens they will have good tee times to look forward to.
NBA: Have they gotten soft?
I was watching with some amusement the reporting of Bulls superstar Derrick Rose complaining about hard fouls as he drives to the hole. I grew up in an era where you didn’t drive to the hole with impunity and if you did you would get hammered. Hell, if you drove to the cup strong you still might get hammered. Witness this hard foul on Kurt Rambis by Kevin McHale in the 1984 NBA Finals…them shorts are way too small
Neither player was ejected and the only call was the hard foul on McHale. The foul did send a message though. The Celtics seemed to be the tougher team and outslugged the Lakers in a classic 7 game series. If something like that happened today, McHale would have likely been ejected and half the teams would have been facing suspensions for leaving the bench. Now Im not saying that fouls like this should be commonplace, but I think that hard fouling sends a message and Im all about non calling of flopping fouls. Touching a guy and he flies back like he was shot. There is no need for that…none . The refs should either call a foul on the flopper but that might slow the game down even more or ignore the obvious act and keep playing. The message might take a while to catch on but it would catch on. Stop flopping like a fish! I know, I know the NBA wants to increase scoring, they like seeing players take the ball to the cup. But I like the argument presented by Rob Parker of the Detroit Free Press on ESPN’s first Take that it forces players to develop an all around game. I don’t think scoring would be hurt and a few hard fouls is good for the game. If the player makes the shot it does act as a deterrent.
NFL: Bountygate, will it ever end?
With the pointless appeals by Saints coach Sean Payton and assistant Joe Vitt being denied by Sheriff Goodell (Did you really think he was going to reduce his own penalty?) The focus now turns to the players. The NFLPA has said that the players should not bear any punishment for doing what their coaches told them to do, but there are some that feel that the players contributed their own money to the bounties and must be punished themselves. Me myself, Im of the thought that the players while bearing some culpability for the program didn’t level any “kill or injure” shots at the targeted players. Had their been players injured, I think you would have a case for fines and/or suspensions but with no one hurt. It would be hard to prove beyond talk what players were trying to hurt others since there were no major injuries. I think that this whole sordid affair should be let alone once and for all. But if you disagree…
Phat Dap/Head Slap
You know im all about the sick slams. This one from Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook this past weekend could be on the health commission list for ill-inducing.
The people geeking in the background is what I loved here. Im just like how the hell did he do that???
One of my coworkers played for Bama in the early 2000’s and I know that this one will pain him greatly. One of the crystal football trophies that Bama won as BCS champions was shattered by a father a player who tripped on a rug that was beneath it. The Waterford Crystal trophy is valued at better than $30,000. The other crystal trophy is on display at the Paul Bryant museum in Tuscaloosa. The broken trophy was on display at the athletic hall that houses coach Nick Saban. The university said it will replace the trophy but one has to wonder why it was not secured and in a place to be broken… What were ya’lls thinkin???
That’s the view from the Hoodwood: Until next post fellow sports fans!