Since I was only nine when Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson retired, it took years before I could begin to understand what he meant to so many people in Richmond, people who mostly lived in the parts of town I knew little about, then.
As a kid I was a New York Yankees fan. My excuse is they had a Triple A farm club here between 1954 and 1964. Without question, I pulled for the Richmond Virginians, or V's, for short. As the Yankees played in the American League, to me, Robinson was mostly another player for the National League enemy Brooklyn Dodgers.
At that age, although I was a devout baseball fan, there was just no way I could fully grasp what Robinson had accomplished in breaking the color line in 1947. In truth, I’m still learning about what a genuine hero Robinson was during the baseball season that was played over eight years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott put Martin Luther King, Jr. on the map.
“To Neet, Dodger Ranked a Source of Pride,” is an elegant sports remembrance. It was crafted by one of the best sportswriters I’ve known, Bill Millsaps. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Robinson's debut with the Dodgers, it was published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2007.
“...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.”
Click here to read the entire piece.
Before serving as the executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (he retired in 2005), Millsaps was the sports editor of that same newspaper 1973-91. And, he wrote on sports, regularly.
By the way, now I'm strictly a National League fan, and I routinely root for anybody to beat the Yankees.