Monday, April 16, 2007

Kudos to Millsaps

Since I was only nine when Jackie Robinson retired, it took years before I could begin to understand what he meant to so many people who lived in the parts of Richmond I knew little about then. As a kid I was a Yankees fan (my excuse -- they had a Triple A farm club here, then), so Robinson was mostly another player for the National League enemy Brooklyn Dodgers to me.

At that age, although I was a devout baseball fan, there was just no way I could fathom what Robinson had accomplished in breaking the color line in 1947. In truth, I’m still learning about what a genuine hero Robinson was in that time, over eight years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott put Martin Luther King, Jr. on the map.

The recently retired executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bill Millsaps (who was the sports editor of that same newspaper from 1973-91), used his personal view of what Jackie Robinson’s impact had on the black person he knew best when he was a boy, to shed some light on what a source of pride Robinson was in the African-American community all those years ago.

“To Neet, Dodger Ranked a Source of Pride,” is an elegant sports remembrance by one of the best sportswriters I’ve known. Click here to read the whole piece; an except is below:

“...As young children, we didn’t know a lot about Neet, except we knew she was a wonderfully gentle soul. We knew she and her husband Glenzon lived over in The Ridges on the other side of the Southern Railroad tracks, that they raised a family of four children, that they were people of deep religious faith, and that Neet answered most questions one of two ways: ‘Yessum’ and ‘Nome.’ To say that Neet kept her feelings and opinions under wraps is to say that the Grand Canyon is a very big ditch. Then Jackie Robinson came to the major leagues 60 years ago today as a member of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and Neet couldn’t hide her pride.”

Now I'm strictly a National League fan, and I routinely pull for anybody to beat the Yankees. Anybody!

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