Accompanying the sights and sounds of spring are the beautiful cracking sounds that baseballs produce as they crash into wooden baseball bats and leather mitts. The beginning of the season is always a fun occasion of which I have many fond memories. Baseball has been woven into the history of American recreation and is a mostly innocent diversion from hustle and bustle of everyday life. I still believe this to be the case, but recent decades have witnessed the rise of the cultural Marxist agenda within the MLB. The month of April has become dedicated to the veneration of the “civil rights movement,” and Jackie Robinson in particular. Robinson was a black baseball player who officially broke the MLB’s color barrier when he appeared as the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman on April 15, 1947. In 1997, Robinson’s number 42 was universally retired throughout the entire league, but since 2004 has been worn by all MLB players on April 15, celebrated as Jackie Robinson Day. MLB Commissioner (((Bud Selig))) was responsible for establishing the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson, stating, “Baseball’s proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field.”
Echoing this effusive praise for Robinson is a recent article from Catholic blogger George Weigel titled, “The Importance of Jackie Robinson.” Weigel is a staunch eulogist of the late Pope John Paul II and typifies what can be described as conservative Catholicism, vigorously defending established Catholic teachings while also defending more recent post-Vatican II innovations.1 Weigel’s thinking on the topic of race and integration is predictably mainstream. He proclaims that the civil rights movement was a just cause and that Jackie Robinson deserves the notoriety that has followed him for being the first black player to break the color line. Weigel lauds events such as the Selma protest march that preceded the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As an aside, I wonder if George has recently visited Selma. It turns out that being a historic civil rights landmark hasn’t sustained prosperity. Weigel counts encounters with Bayard Rustin as cherished memories, which seems odd for even a mainstream conservative given Rustin’s sodomy, as well as his advocacy of socialism and sodomite rights.
Weigel mentions some brief biographical information on Robinson, but neglects to mention Robinson’s gang activity during his youth. Weigel offers hyperbolic praise for Robinson, calling him “perhaps the greatest amateur athlete in the country” during his tenure at UCLA. But he isn’t done: “There has never been anything more exciting in baseball, including the majestic home run and the overpowering no-hitter, than 42 stealing a base, especially home.” Reading Weigel would lead someone to believe that Robinson was the best ballplayer of his era, or even of all time! Weigel insists that Robinson’s “performance for the ages” is what “changed America.” In reality, the legend of Jackie Robinson has outrun his actual performance on the field. Robinson was a good baseball player, and for several years he was very good. Robinson was great during his MVP season of 1949, but one could make a case that one of the runners-up could just as easily have won the award.2
Weigel credits Robinson’s debut in 1947 for the ascendancy of the Dodgers in the National League during the late 1940s through the mid-1950s. The Dodgers were a very competitive team in the years prior to, during, and after the career of Jackie Robinson. Robinson undoubtedly played a role in the success of the Dodgers during his tenure with the team, but his role should not be overemphasized. The Dodgers’ roster featured many Hall of Famers who have become legends in their own right. Robinson’s overall career numbers are impressive enough. Part of this is likely due to Robinson’s breaking into the league at the beginning of his prime at the relatively late age of 28 when his skills had already matured to a degree. Given the relative brevity of Robinson’s career, his career totals in advanced metrics such as wins above replacement and on-base plus slugging (OPS) are good, but by no means legendary.
Robinson’s performance during the Dodgers’ numerous World Series is slightly underwhelming. The Dodgers were perennial opponents of the New York Yankees during Robinson’s career, and the Yankees won five of the six matchups. The one season in which the Dodgers managed to vanquish the Yankees was 1955, and this was Robinson’s weakest performance during the regular season and the World Series. Robinson is remembered as a speedster on the base paths due to his propensity to steal bases. However, Robinson played during a time in which stolen bases were not emphasized as part of the strategy for most teams. It is unclear how Robinson would compare to other famous base-stealers like Ty Cobb, Lou Brock, or Rickey Henderson. As far as speed is concerned, the fastest player of his era, and perhaps ever, was actually Mickey Mantle.3
None of this is to suggest that Jackie Robinson was not a good baseball player. He certainly was, and he deserves credit for his accomplishments. But the truth remains that Robinson’s legend has been augmented over the course of the decades since his retirement due to the emphasis placed upon his role in integrating Major League Baseball. Robinson was not the legendary talent that he is said to be by modern baseball commentators. He was not even the best black baseball player, which is an honor I would reserve for the likes of Henry “Hank” Aaron and Willie Mays. Has baseball improved since integration? The unanimous response from most pundits would be that it has. Ironically there were more blacks participating in professional baseball in the days of the old Negro Leagues than there are today. The integration of the previously all-white Major Leagues brought about the inevitable decline and extinction of the Negro Leagues. The signing of Jackie Robinson by the Dodgers was indeed revolutionary, but it hasn’t improved the sport of baseball or American race relations in general. Jackie Robinson was a good baseball player, but his reputation has been embellished by the cultural Marxist agenda promoted throughout all sports today. Jackie Robinson’s place in history can be filed as another chapter of historical revision in the name of equality.
- For example, Weigel has recently written against the proposed recognition of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) as a papal prelature on par with Opus Dei. Weigel objects that the SSPX dissents from the “Church’s teaching” on religious liberty set forth in the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humane. Weigel ignores what previous popes have taught on the subject of religious liberty. Is it possible that declarations such as papal and conciliar infallibility haven’t made things more clear but have actually muddied the epistemological waters? ↩
- I’m partial towards Stan Musial, but as a Cardinals fan I acknowledge my bias. ↩
- Roger McGrath has written about the unexpected dominance of white sprinters throughout history until roughly the 1970s. His article “White Sprinters” originally appeared in Chronicles Magazine, but is now behind a pay wall. The article can be read in the comments on this thread at Caste Football. ↩