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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What if Leo Durocher had managed Jackie Robinson in 1947?

Leo Durocher managed the Brooklyn Dodgers 1939-1946, 1948 (35-37), then switched to the New York Giants in 1948 (41-38) - 1955, Chicago Cubs (1966-1972), Houston Astros (1972-1973).

Burt Shotton and Roy Campanella 1948
In Jackie Robinson's rookie season of 1947 Durocher supported him in spring training.  However, Durocher was suspended for the season and replaced by Burt Shotton.  Supposedly Shotton had promised his wife that he would not wear a baseball uniform again.  So when Shotton managed the Dodgers in 1947 he wore a suit, not a uniform.  Only team members in uniform may go onto the field.  So, because of his mild personality and attire Shotton was not very aggressive in supporting Robinson against bad treatment by opposing teams.

Jackie Robinson day: enough already!  Monday, April 16, 2012

Am I the only one completely turned off by what MLB has turned into an annual celebration of its own silliness?  Is MLB the only organization that insists on reminding everyone of a very bad policy that it had for many years but that it ended many years ago?

Jack Roosevelt Robinson is properly recognized as an American pioneer and hero for becoming the first modern black person to play MLB and to have done so under difficult circumstances.  His personality and character contribute to his stature...

If one objective of MLB is to educate people, including its own players, about the past it seems that there are significant failures.  During last night's ESPN game of the week Angel outfielder Torii Hunter was featured in a studio statement in which he said that if it were not for Jackie Robinson he, Hunter, would not be in MLB today.  Torii Hunter is 36 years old.  He's not a kid but a 16 year veteran.  Is his grasp of history so flimsy that he thinks that MLB could have remained racially segregated all these years?
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Derek Jeter, who will be 40 in June, agrees with Torii Hunter.  Today I heard Jeter in a canned statement on the Allan Huber "Bud" Selig TV network, a.k.a., MLB Network.  Can Jeter be that dumb?  And he has a publishing imprint.

If that were true, then big league baseball would be the only significant entity in American society that had not been integrated.

MLB Network today has even more middle aged white guys saying really stupid things than in previous years.  The movie 42 has "educated" people in a comic book way.  Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman yelled epithets at Robinson.  Chapman says he would have done the same to other players.  I agree.  Maybe Robinson got more but human behavior in the late 1940s was very much along those lines.  Star players like Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio had been subjected to epithets.  It didn't start with Robinson and it didn't end with him.

Leo Durocher February 1948
by Press Association
via Wikimedia Commons
But what if Leo Durocher had managed Jackie Robinson in 1947?  Durocher would have been out on the field attacking the opposing teams when they went after Robinson, verbally or physically.  Durocher was known as a bench jockey himself, maybe not that different from Chapman.  Both Durocher and Chapman started their big league playing careers with the New York Yankees.  Durocher (1925, 1928-1929) and Chapman (1930-1936 (36 games)).  So they were never teammates.

A big part of the Robinson legend is that he was a victim.  Had Durocher been his manager in 1947, much of that moral high ground would have been diminished.  Robinson's own strength of character would, of course, prevail but the fairy tale component might have been denied to simplistic people like Selig.

I heard Robinson's daughter Sharon interviewed by Micheal Kay today.  He kept trying to turn Jackie Robinson's experience into a soap opera but Sharon replied to his emotionally charged questions with calm, tempered, logical explanations with the theme that her parents were not overwhelmed by the negative experiences dramatized in the movie 42, that they had much more to their lives than that.

And what of the Selig inspired hysteria about only 8.5% of today's players being American born blacks?  They're playing other sports because baseball has become BORING!  Bud, you want to fix that?  Implement the changes that I've recommended and save the game.  Then more Americans, white and black, will play baseball.

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