Utilize history to bring a new generation of Blacks into baseball
April 15th, is Jackie Robinson day in Major League Baseball. A day that commemorates Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947. Each player, coach, and manager on every team and umpires wear the number 42 during this day. This year is extra special because it also commemorates Jackie’s 100th birthday and the upcoming opening of the Jackie Robinson museum in New York City. Jackie Robinson was a pioneer in baseball and a man of great character, watch two movies based on his life 1996 Soul of the game starring Blair Underwood as Jackie, and the 2013 film starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie.
MLB is desperately trying to reverse the declining trend of Black players in the league and one way they could reverse this trend and honoring past players. While Jackie Robinson is the only player to have a whole day in his honor in the league, here are 5 players that MLB should name days after for being exceptional human beings and for what they offered to the sport.
5. Larry Doby
Larry Doby was the second African-American player to play in the major leagues and the first to play in the American league for the Cleveland Indians just three months after Jackie broke the barrier. He was the first negro league player to jump straight from the negro leagues to the major leagues. He was a seven-time all-star and the first African-American along with Saitchel Paige to win the world series in 1948. He also became one of the first American players to play professional baseball in Japan along with Don Newcombe. He was a home run champion and American league RBI champion, he managed the Chicago White Sox in 1978 becoming the second black manager and worked in the American League executive office. His front office skills transcended baseball as he held position(s) with the New Jersey Nets of the NBA as director of communications and community affairs. A former navy vet who served in World War II, his number was retired by the Indians and he was inducted in their hall of fame in 1994. In 1998 he was inducted into the baseball hall of fame, in 2012 he was one of four former baseball players pictured on U.S. postage stamps. Larry Doby passed away on June 18th, 2003.
4. Hank Aaron
“Hammer” Hank Aaron was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1982. His accolades include breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974 holding the record for 33 years at 755 (being beaten by Barry Bonds). A 25-time all-star, 3 x gold glove winner, National League MVP in 1957. Holds the all-time records for total bases, extra base hits, and runs batted in. He is currently a executive within the Atlanta Braves organization, one of the few African-Americans holding that position in MLB. In 2001 he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal and in 2002 he received the Presidential medal of freedom. His number (44) was retired by both the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers and he is in the Braves Hall of Fame and Miller Park Wall of Fame. He was elected to the All-Century team in 1999.
3. Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson a 14-time all-star, triple crown winner, MVP of the American and National league respectively. World Series MVP with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. He also broke barriers becoming the first Black manager in MLB in 1975, managing the Cleveland Indians while still playing becoming a player/manager. He ended up managing the San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles, as well as being the first manager of the Washington Nationals. He also was inducted in the baseball hall of fame in 1982. As well as being inducted in the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, and Cleveland Indians hall of fames having his number (20) retired by each team. He also was inducted into the Nationals ring of honor and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the first Jackie Robinson Society Community Recognition Award in 2007. He served in the front office of baseball organizations as well as the front office of MLB and was a member of the NAACP, working to improve baseball relations in inner cities. Frank Robinson passed away on February 7th of this year.
2. Willie Mays
The “Say Hey Kid” famously known for the “catch” in the 1954 world series, catching the ball over the shoulder while running it’s one of the most iconic baseball plays ever. 1951 National league rookie of the year, 24x all-star, 12x gold glove winner, 2x National league MVP, fifth all time on the home run list with 660 homers. World champion in 1954, Eieht consecutive 100-RBI seasons, 4x National league home run leader and stolen base leader Willie Mays could do it all. While playing for the New York Giants he was a staple in the community often seen playing stick ball with neighborhood kids. He was voted to the hall of fame in 1979, his number (24) was retired by the San Francisco Giants and has held the title of special assistant to the president since 1986. San Francisco holds “Willie Mays Day” every May 24th to commemorate the anniversary of his major league debut and his number. He has received honorary doctorates from Yale University, San Francisco State University and Dartmouth College. The major league beacon of life award and the presidential medal of freedom in 2015. He was voted to the MLB All-Time team in 1997 and All-Century team in 1999.
1. Ken Griffey Jr.
The “Kid” back in the mid-90’s when I was a kid, Griffey was the guy all the black kids admired. Wearing his cap backwards while going through batting practice, releasing a line of sneakers with Nike which I believe was a first for MLB players. Possessing one of the sweetest, fluid swings in baseball he is one of the best center fielders ever, constantly robbing hitters with his acrobatic video game like moves. A 10x gold glove winner, 13x all-star, 7x Silver Slugger award winner, 4x American league home run leader, American league MVP and RBI leader in 1997, the National league Comeback player of the year in 2005. He was elected to the MLB All-Century team in 1999, he was elected into the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds respective hall of fames, as well as having his number (24) retired by the Mariners. He was elected into the baseball hall of fame in 2016. Griffey was the “man” in the 90’s when it came to baseball.
While the rank of #1 could be up for debate, Ken Griffey deserves that honor in my eyes simply because I was able to actually see him perform in his career. He’s also young enough to help attract a new generation to the great game of baseball. All of these gentlemen contributed a tremendous amount to the game of baseball and inspired younger generations. They all deserve league wide days named after them. If baseball is serious about bringing more black players to the game, they should not only display how fun it is but also look back to it’s history and show the younger generation what players who look just like them have accomplished in the sport.
About The Author
B.Easy is the co-host of Talkin' Suplexes. He's a self-professed geek loving movies, wrestling, comic books, and using his imagination. Goal in life is to become to a world traveler and get paid to hop on lear jets. Follow him on Instagram @iam_beasy, Follow Talkin' Suplexes @talkinsuplexespod