Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was noncommittal in his response to an ESPN.com editorial that proposed the creation of an award that would keep Jackie Robinson's jersey on the field in a tribute to the player who broke baseball's color barrier.
More than 1,000 people -- and counting -- have shared their opinions, both pro and con, with SportsNation. The overwhelming majority supported the idea of an award that would honor one player in baseball who exemplified the ideals of Jackie Robinson. Here is a sampling of what they said:
Perpetuate his legacy
Baseball should honor Jackie Robinson and it should start with "The Jackie Robinson Award" and not the "Rookie of the Year" award. I saw Jackie in his first game at Roosevelt Field, and was there at the very first Brooklyn Dodger game at Ebbets Field. He was the greatest baseball player I have ever seen and as a 13-year-old boy I always looked up to Jackie as a man and a ballplayer. He was my idol. I have worn the No. 42 from my high school days and, believe it or not, still wear No. 42 playing softball each Sunday morning April through August. As a businessman, Jackie's picture hangs directly over my desk, and a photo of him stealing home May 15, 1952, adorns one of my window sills. I will never forget him, and anything I can do to perpetuate his memory as you have outlined it, please count on my help.
Glen Rock, N.J.
It's about his game, not his color
Ridiculous! We know for certain that Jackie Robinson wasn't the first black player to play baseball (many played before the turn of the century). He should be recognized for what he was -- a truly outstanding PLAYER, and not singled out for his color.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Remember Robinson for the giant he was
What a wonderful idea. It made me think: "What would I want my son or daughter to aspire to winning, an MVP award or the proposed Jackie Robinson award?" No question it would be the "42" award. I can think of no better way to remember and honor him for all time and make sure that he is remembered for the giant he was, which goes way beyond his ability as a player. A team of role models for our children to watch, to emulate. Oh, to dream!
East Rockaway, N.Y.
An asterisk on history
I was moved by your thoughts on how to properly honor Mr. Robinson. He is one of my heroes for all the reasons you cited. His baseball accomplishments are secondary. He remains a shining example of dignity and courage under immense pressure. I feel, however, that there is one additional step that baseball should take to recognize the significance of the first year Jackie joined the league: every record, EVERY one, that came before that year should have an asterisk, or a separate record book, because of the simple and shameful fact that many of the greats of the game were not included because of the color of their skin. Demonstrate once and for all the true significance of what it meant to break the color barrier.
It's all about desire
I think the player who wears the number 42 should have to "apply" for the honor. Why do they want to honor Mr. Robinson? What message do they hope to convey? And who decides? No voting like a popularity contest. A board of former players, Mr. Robinson's family, and civil rights leaders should decide.
New motivation for greatness
This is one of those out-of-the-box ideas whose time has come. While many superstitious players wouldn't want to abandon their favorite number -- and, frankly, it might prove challenging (to find) a new player worthy of the honor every year -- the chance to be mentioned in the same breath with the legendary Robinson might motivate some players to clean up their act. Simply put, I can't think of a logical reason not to do this.
'Legends never die'
It was said best in the 1993 movie "The Sandlot." As the sillouette of Babe Ruth spoke, in a dream, to a young baseball player named "Benny" Rodriguez, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die." It would only be a seemingly perfect idea to adopt the "42 Award" to commemorate and truly immortalize, perhaps, the most known person in the sports world!
Long Island, N.Y.
Evidence does not support the award
I swear, your Jackie Robinson "42" Award is the dumbest idea to be introduced to the world since the overwhelming need to attack Iraq. Put it in the trash and forget about it. ... Though a superb athlete, Robinson was not deserving of the "honor" of being the first black player in the major leagues. Hundreds preceded him, from Satchel Paige to Smokey Joe Williams to Josh Gibson -- all of whom deserved it far more than Robinson. ... Let's not forget that Branch Rickey was a crook -- an incorrigible man who mocked the legal system and literally stole the most valuable property of Negro League owners. If the reverse had taken place, MLB would have exhausted its financial reserves to fight such thievery in the courts!
It makes WAY too much sense
As a sports fan, I have no doubt that it will be ignored by the current "leaders" of MLB since it makes WAY too much sense. I am not a black man, so I cannot identify with Jackie's struggle. But I have told my son of his accomplishments as a 1) Great American, 2) Leading Civil Rights person, 3) Baseball player. Hopefully 20 or 30 years from now, fathers will still have that opportunity if they can point to a No. 42 on the field.
Make it a career-achievement award
I don't agree with giving the award to an active player. We benefit from hindsight when we judge Jackie Robinson. He is remembered for his accomplishments on and off the field, and his character during and after his baseball career. Giving the "42" Award to an active player could cause many problems, because we would be judging them on a very brief period of their lives. . . . I believe there are deserving players in the MLB right now, but let's wait and judge them on their entire body of work, not just a couple of chapters. I feel a lifetime achievement award dedicated to Jackie Robinson would be more fitting.
New York, N.Y.
Too few good men
Excellent idea. I pondered my response and wondered if the whiny millionaire players would understand such an award, and then I considered that it wouldn't be those who took their talent for granted that would be eligible to wear "42." Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Jamie Moyer, Mark McLemore, these are the men that deserve "42."
Carve "42" into outfield grass
I applaud ESPN.com for suggesting a living memorial in recognition of the contribution made by Jackie Robinson in breaking the color barrier, but do not believe the use of active players is workable -- most apparently have no idea about the history of Jackie Robinson or the Negro Leagues, etc. . . . Rather, I would suggest carving the number "42" into the outfield grass of every ballpark -- so people in the stands can ask each other what that means -- and creating an interactive historical display in the concourse of every major-league stadium, including pictures of Jackie Robinson (and Branch Rickey) and other Negro League ballplayers who made it to the major leagues. It would be wonderful if Major League Baseball would spend some of its marketing dollars creating an exhibit that would educate today's generation of fans about baseball history -- both the good and the not-so-good.
Don't forget "14"
As an American Leaguer and life-long Indians fan might I suggest a Larry Doby "14" Award for the American League and keep the "42" Award to the National League. Mr. Doby joined the Cleveland Indians just 11 weeks after Mr. Robinson (broke baseball's color barrier), becoming the first black (to play) in the American League. He endured the same hardships with the same amount of courage and dignity. Doby's Hall of Fame numbers give further proof that he is worthy of the same recognition as Robinson.
Apple Creek, Ohio
Don't forget Jackie's legacy
Sure, I thought it was a great gesture when Selig announced the Major League Baseball would retire his number. It showed the respect that baseball and America has for this great man. But why not let his achievements on and off the field live on for future generations to see the type of man he was? Today you see many Hispanic players (Sosa for example) who wear No. 21 in tribute to Roberto Clemente and what he did for Hispanic players. Why can't one person, the living embodiment of Jackie Robinson, wear his number? It would be a great honor, not only for that individual, but for Jackie too. I think what often gets overlooked when thinking of Jackie is the fact that as great a ballplayer and athlete he was, he was a greater man. And that's why this award is a great idea.
Don't forget Jackie's legacy
This would be perfect for America's greatest pastime. We need to bring back the true meaning of sports: Sportsmanship and good, healthy competition. All we see nowadays is focus on money and media, we don't see athletes playing for the love of the game. This would put more emphasis on the good that can come from baseball and take the focus off contracts and controversy. Don't retire his number forever. He will become like the others, forgotten.
Salt Lake City
"Retire" doesn't describe Jackie
What an excellent idea! Where's the petition I can sign? Of the many adjectives that could be used to describe Jackie Robinson's personality, "retiring" would not be among them. Mr. Robinson always charged forward relentlessly on behalf of African-Americans (and truly on behalf of all Americans), from the campus of UCLA to Fort Hood in Texas, to the ballparks of the National League, to the polling places of the segregated South, and to the mean streets of the Northeast's inner cities. No. 42 should never rest dormant on a stadium wall. It should be a vibrant, living reminder of how much one man can accomplish and how far all of us still have to go before Jackie Robinson's vision becomes a reality. I can think of no greater honor for an active major leaguer than the privilege of wearing Jackie Robinson's No. 42 on his uniform.
A history lesson
You write "Derek Jeter. Vladimir Guerrero. Ichiro Suzuki. And the others. None would be in the major leagues if not for the trail that Jackie Robinson blazed . . ." I certainly don't mean to downplay Robinson's role in baseball history, but I believe you're mistaken when you bring Ichiro Suzuki into the argument. Asians, including PCL pitchers Kenso Nushida and Lee Gum Hong, performed in organized American baseball as early as 1932. Nushida reportedly was offered a contract by the Senators. Japanese pitcher Eiji Sawamura was pursued by the Pirates in the 1930s as well, but chose to stay in Japan due -- reportedly -- to his strongly anti-American beliefs. He was killed fighting against the U.S. near the end of World War II. A Chinese shortstop named Lai Tin seems to have been invited to the White Sox spring training camp as far back as 1915. Any number of Hawaiians of at least partial Polynesian or Asian heritage also played in organized ball prior to Robinson. Prince Oana first reached the majors in 1934. Of course none of this should in any way diminish Robinson's legacy. It's simply a matter of getting the details right.
Author, "Ninety Feet from Fame: Close Calls with Baseball Immortality"
A matter of black and white
I love the concept, and it would be both a fitting way to honor Jackie Robinson and a fitting way to honor the players today who carry on the character that he personified. But there is one very unfortunate but very serious problem: The nature of the award is going to make it all but impossible to give it to a white player. I don't think it's an award for black players only (I don't think that's your intent), but there is going to be nonetheless an unwritten understanding among whoever is choosing the award that it should go to a minority player if possible. . . . That wouldn't be right, and that would fly in the face of everything Jackie Robinson stood for.
Progress requires vigilance
I fully support the notion, since it is nearly identical to a proposal I made several years ago in a column for Boston Baseball when MLB announced that they planned to retire Robinson's number, then still worn by Mo Vaughn, who was one of a handful of players allowed to retain the number since he had worn it before. At the time I proposed that one player on each team be selected to wear number "42" -- removing "42" from the field of play seemed to me wrong. Far better to have Robinson's presence recalled on a daily basis, with "42" worn and seen and commented about regularly rather than retired on a wall, as if racism were a part of baseball's past. Sadly, it is not and having a player on each team wear "42" would serve as a constant reminder that progress requires vigilance.
Author, "Red Sox Century" and "Yankees Century," and Series Editor for "The Best American Sports Writing"
An American hero
What a brilliant idea -- and far more meaningful than permanently retiring his number! It will ensure that his legacy will live on. I was already a Dodger fan when Jackie joined the team, but he turned me into a fanatic. I was initially captivated by the social significance of his arrival, and now, more than 50 years later, I believe his breaking of the color barrier is the single most important accomplishment in the history of baseball. . . . For me, the story of his courage and success is not only the most thrilling event in all of baseball, but a glorious moment for America. The bigotry aimed at Robinson was one of the most disgraceful chapters in baseball history; Jackie's courage, nobility and eventual success is one of the most thrilling. He was then, and continues to be, my American Hero.
Who would be deserving?
Each year during Black History Month I try to share with my third grade class the important role Jackie played in this country's history. His life and character set an incredible example. The only problem I see with this award is finding an athlete worthy of such an honor. I love baseball, I have since that first game in the ugly old Kingdome, when I was 5 or 6. I have to admit, though, I don't love many ball players. It seems so much about money now, not how incredibly lucky these guys are to get to spend their lives playing a game for their living. They are heroes for their athletic abilities, not for their qualities as human beings or what they do for others. Jackie was a hero for all those reasons. So, though I love the idea of this honor, I think it would be hard to award.
Salt Lake City
Be careful who gets it
This is a bad idea. You are giving one guy a chance to tarnish Jackie Robinson's legacy for a whole season. It should be an award given after the season. Don't you think that Christian group that recognized Eugene Robinson is happy they gave him a one-time award rather than have him be the front man of their organization for a year?
A fitting tribute
As an Asian-American who grew up play baseball for a small Catholic school in the Midwest, I often found myself the only person of my ethnicity on the field. Although it never seemed strange to me, I often wondered what other Asian kids were doing that I wasn't. As an adult, Jackie Robinson, his story, his life, and what he has meant to the game will always hold a special place in my life. And, for as many times as I hear the stories or read the articles about his breakthrough with the Dodgers, I cannot help think that it is one of the many moments that will always make baseball our national pastime. . . . I have always been one for retiring 42; however, I think it would be more fitting to insure that 42 will always be a part of the game.
It's all about ESPN
Your suggestion to create a Jackie Robinson "42" award is a bizarre contrivance. It speaks more of your network's longing to connect with "Courage. Dignity. Excellence. Respect. Sportsmanship. Sacrifice," than it does a sincere affection for Jackie Robinson. It makes me think, ESPN, that you would be a bad party guest. I picture you arriving late, making a loud, desperate attention-starved entrance and slipping your home-made CD into the CD player, without permission. We were all enjoying the original mix, but you take no comfort in people having a good time that you didn't inspire or sanction. Your mix CD, playing "Courage. Dignity. Excellence. Respect. Sportsmanship. Sacrifice," is like a rich preppy kid showing off of his collection of Ramones hits. "See, I'm cool!"
An award that resonates
I'd be thrilled to be able to point out to my children, who weren't born when Jackie was breaking the color barrier, the incredible magnitude of his life, both during and after his career in the majors. Having a current player wear No. 42 on his back to help identify him as the player responsible for carrying on Jackie's dignity would resonate with young fans. It resonates with this one.
Imagine the outcry when a white player wins the award. Or is this intended for black players only? Either way it's an idea that will cause a great deal of polarization and argument either way, pretty much the last thing we need now. The retiring of his number was questionable enough, let's leave it alone. The only reason you're suggesting this is because it's Black History Month. Next thing we know you'll be suggesting today's black players deserve "reparations" for the fact that prior generations of great black players were barred from the league. Enough already.
A welcome idea
When I was born in 1971, Roberto Clemente was working his wonders, Reggie Jackson was, well, Reggie, and Hank Aaron was on his way to passing the Babe. To my generation, all we really know about Jackie Robinson is "he was black." It's easy to dismiss his legacy because of the many efforts today that allow anyone to gain entrance to the simple opportunity to prove himself in his arena. How wonderful that we can see a ballplayer today and not even notice the color of his skin! Yet Jackie Robinson's era was different from ours, and he was no token either. He does not deserve to be dismissed. Borrowing the phrase of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let us regard the content of his character and not the color of his skin. To that end, the "42" award is a welcome idea. The first time a white player is awarded this honor, it will remind people that Jackie Robinson was not just about being black, and not even just about being a great ballplayer. It's about being a great man. Bring it on!
Will it work?
I think this is one of the best, most beautiful ideas I have heard in a long time. Will it work? You would have to award it at the start of the season, to make it different from MVP, to make it not about home runs and averages. Who playing today deserves it? How do we know that the person wearing it won't go out an get a DUI, etc.? Damn my skepticism! But you know it is the truth. A beautiful idea! Can the players make it work? We can only hope. After all, is it not optimism that helps us forgive transgressions on and off the field?
His legacy endures
When No. 42 was retired in honor of Jackie Robinson, I thought that was the ultimate honor and respect to the man who meant more to the game than anyone who has ever laced up his spikes . . . until I read this article. I think this would top that. Instead of No. 42 being stationary in major league stadiums, it would be active on the field and a constant reminder that his legacy will never fade. I still use his number every day when I sign my name. I place No. 42 in the loop of the "y" in my last name. Several people ask me why it's there, and I tell them that it is to honor Jackie Robinson and his impact on the game of baseball.
His memory is in danger of fading
I think that retiring Jackie's number throughout all of baseball was shortsighted. When I see No. 42 on the mound at Yankee Stadium, I see not only Mariano Rivera, but am reminded of Jackie Robinson as well. I chose 42 as my number for baseball and basketball whenever I could growing up because I was in awe of the man ever since I read "I Never Had It Made." And while I understand why Major League Baseball will not just reverse their decision, the result, as you clearly point out, is that his memory is in danger of fading away. I think your idea is a fantastic one. I hope it comes to fruition.
An inflated legacy
Jackie Robinson is a true hero who no doubt "endured the taunts and the slurs that became the unfortunate price that made sports and America a better place." Isn't that enough? Must the editorial then go on to make a falsehood -- if not for Jackie Robinson, today in the year 2004, the color line and Negro Leagues would still exist? Certainly that's not true. However, in the misdirected effort to make a great story even greater, the editorial apparently felt it had the need and the power to inflate his legacy. After all, who would take exception to a little puffery of Mr. Robinson?
What a perfect idea. Ole Miss football does something similar with its Chuckie Mullins Award, and it has raised Mullins' legend throughout Mississippi to new heights. Keeping "42" on the field in the form of one deserving player per year would be absolutely perfect; there is no other word for it.
A lasting and fitting memorial
I was 10 years old when Jackie played his first game. As a young Negro boy growing up in Orlando, Fla., Jackie was my hero. While I could only see pictures of him on the movie newsreels at the segregated Lincoln Theatre on Church Street in Orlando, my friends and all were so proud of him. When we played ball on the playground, we imitated Jackie. The Brooklyn Dodgers were always the team we rooted for. It was later that I learned of all the things he had to endure. I think your suggestion is an excellent one. To select one player to wear his number for a season would be a lasting and fitting tribute to Jackie.