On April 15, 1997, I was a 13-year-old child with baseball obsession. Fortunately for my brother and I had our father's employer seated at Shea Stadium and we were able to participate in lots of Mets games throughout our formative year.
The specific night was the initial celebration of Jackie Robinson Day over Major League Baseball, 50 years to the day after Robinson broke the baseball's color barrier when he made his debut for Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were in town and kicked off a two-game series with the organization that gave a 28-year-old a chance not only to show off their top-level skills but to pave the way for several generations of African-American ball players, as well as other players of color from different Latin American countries.
Metsna beat Los Angeles comfortably that night, riding five pointless innings from Armando Reynoso and a 2 to 4, four RBI night from centerfielder Lance Johnson to a 5-0 win, moving to 4-9 at the young season.
But the details of game number 1
President Bill Clinton spoke to fans of fans who packed Big Shea on this fine Tuesday night, waving wavy about Jackie Robinson's effect on the sacred Major League Baseball institution, as well as his impact on humanity as a whole.
"It's hard to believe that it was 50 years ago that a 28-year-old rookie changed the face of baseball and America forever," said Clinton according to New York Times . "Jackie Robinson did it the first time that day We've all been trying to catch up since then. If Jackie Robinson was here today, he would say we've done very well over the last 50 years, but we could do much better."
These words, to an impressionable young man, struck a chord with me. I was well-known in baseball history but only began to investigate US civil rights beyond the grammar school grounds.
Jackie Robinson became the crossing that I needed to begin the search for knowledge. I had known about Jackie Robinson, the ballplayer. I knew I wanted to know about Jackie Robinson, the man.
So I read the harsh systems of systematic, racist-laden addiction that Robinson and hundreds of color ball players stood out for decades of playing in the big leagues, as well as generation of players before those who played in the Negro leagues.
The talent Jackie Robinson had allowed him to break down the walls that had segregated the game so long. But Jackie Robinson's makeup as a human was what enabled him to become a pioneer who brought this game and this country together.
I will never forget the lesson Jackie Robinson's story told me. I strongly suggest that you go out and find one that also tells you.