Whew. Jackie Robinson Day is over. The women and children can come out of hiding. Today we can identify the players by their DIFFERENT numbers on each team.
Yesterday afternoon I innocently turned on the Cubs game on MLB Network. Despite pre-game Jackie Robinson blathering, I had forgotten that all the players on all the teams now wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15. It is SO annoying. Come on, admit it, you're annoyed, too. By the middle of the Yankee game last night I had turned off the sound. OK, I did that earlier when the Yankee announcers started to interview commissioner Manfred, the A-Rod Slayer. It was the obligatory Jackie Robinson Day slobbering. The more drivel I hear, the less impressed I am about what Jackie Robinson actually did and even endured. I learned earlier that there was a Jackie Robinson Day in 1947 at which Jackie Robinson was given a Cadillac car, which back then was a VERY big deal. I thought, how long could Jackie Robinson have possibly been treated badly if he got a Cadillac as a rookie?
Maybe next year in addition to having all the players wear the same number, they will all wear a Jackie Robinson mask. You know, like the ones in that movie of bank robbers wearing masks of recent presidents. That way we'll have no idea who the players are. I may not watch the games next April 15 if the nonsense does not stop.
But it got me wondering: how DID fans identify players before 1929 when the Yankees led the way by being the first team to regularly wear numbers on their backs? I think there had been scorecards before that but how much good would they have been?
Then, I think in the late 1950s, teams started to also put the player's last name on his back above the number, which would seem to make the number unnecessary. Obviously, you don't need both. The Dodgers also have a small number on the front.
Football and basketball players have numbers front and back, but names only on the back. Maybe it's assumed that if you can see their faces that you would recognize them.
Maybe way back fans recognized Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth (before 1929) without either their name or a number on their uniform. Cobb never wore any number. There was no parade of faceless relief pitchers, so there was no need there. I'm guessing that the public address announcer stated the batter's name with each plate appearance.
There was no TV. Radio was limited and the transistor would not be invented for decades, so there were no transistor radios in the stands with fans listening as they would in the early Dodger years in Los Angeles with Vin Scully informing the locals about what they were seeing in person.
But we've become accustomed to identifying even members of our own team by their numbers and it's uncomfortable and confusing to do without that information, even for one day. Making all the players the same is not good. We watch the stars. The others could be anybody. Or nobody. Manfred, the A-Rod Slayer, should consider this before another day of mass non-individuality, with all players mindlessly acquiescing.
Names and Numbers. Saturday, August 9, 2008