April 15 is a day of many dimensions. It is income tax day. It’s also the day the Titanic sunk. And it’s also my brother-in-law’s birthday. Different things to different people. It the world of baseball however, April 15 has a whole different meaning.
It was seventy years ago that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. April 15, 1947. A number of years ago the baseball gods decreed that April 15 shall be “Jackie Robinson Day.” Now let me say right off that I have the upmost respect for the memory and legacy of Jackie Robinson. I actually saw Jackie play. I can still remember that diving catch he made back in 1956 preserving the no-hitter for his teammate Carl Erskine. It is entirely fitting and proper that Jackie should be remembered and that this be his special day. You could do this in a number of ways. A moment of silence. Videos of his great career on the scoreboard. Perhaps a Jackie Robinson bobblehead or garden gnome. There are lots of ways you can do it. Unfortunately MLB has picked the absolutely worst way. They have decided that on April 15, every players will have, instead of his regular number, the number ‘42’ on his uniform.
This bring me back to a game I saw at the Yards a few years back. It was Jack Robinson Day. It was also 39 degrees out. Gray skies. A touch of frozen mist in the air. But I’m there trying to keep score.
It was OK at the beginning of the game because they announce the player’s names and have them posted on the scoreboard. The problem came when the substitutions start.
It was the top of the 7th inning. The Birds were winning 3-0 and had just replaced their staring pitcher (who was right handed) with Zach Britton, a lefty. The scheduled batter for Tampa was outfielder David DeJesus who was a left handed batter. Sure enough Tampa sent up a right handed batter to pinch hit. But who? The player sports number 42 on his back, so not much help there. No problem; the field announcer will fill me in. I waited. I waited a little more. Then…
“Your attention please ladies and gentlemen…someone is batting for David DeJesus.”
I checked my copy of the Tampa roster. There was no player listed having the name of “someone”. They did have one outfielder on the roster who was not already in the game by the name of Bandon Guyer. And Brandon did bat right handed. Now I must confess I would not have known Brandon Guyer from Abner Doubleday but it seemed like a good guess. I wrote Guyer’s name (ever so lightly) into the score card. Two pitches later the P.A. announcer toned in with
“Your attention please ladies and gentlemen. The pinch hitter for David Dejesus is Brandon Guyer.”
Eventually “Guyer” walks. The next batter singled him to second base. For some reason my eyes checked out the centerfield scoreboard where they, at times, flash the lineups for the two teams. I looked at Tampa’s lineup. Something was wrong. Where was Guyer? He was not there! Instead someone named Logan Forsythe was listed. I was now feeling really unprepared. Obviously I should have studied the mug shots of all the Tampa Bay players before going to the game. Perhaps the announcer should have done the same. Anyway a moment later came the announcement:
“Your attention please ladies and gentlemen. The pinch hitter two batters ago was Logan Forsythe, not Brandon Guyer.”
So the truth was out. I crossed out Guyer’s name and wrote in Forsythe. Now don’t worry about the real Brandon Guyer. Two innings later he got into the game as well. And this time the announcer got it right. How do I know? Because he had the correct number on his back: 42, of course.
So that’s my Jackie Robinson Day story. A great player. By all accounts an admirable human being. He should be honored. But please, MLB, find another way.