Thursday, April 12, 2007

What would Jackie do?
By – Jim Williams
The Examiner

This week as ESPN gets ready to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier as part of the Sunday Night Baseball at 8pm when San Diego travels up the freeway to face the Dodgers.

ESPN baseball analyst Dusty Baker who is building a new home in the Bay Area took time to talk to me about the three people who taught him the most about Jackie Robinson.

His father who taught him the importance Robinson's dedication to education, Jim Gilliam gave him the Dodgers view of Robinson and how he gained the respect of his teammates and lastly the doctorate he got from his time as a teammate of Hank Aaron in Atlanta.

The phrase that Baker said was the most often used by all who taught him about Robinson was, ‘What would Jackie do?’

Baker on his learning about Jackie Robinson: ‘It began with my father and growing up in Southern California my dad was my baseball coach and he taught me not only what a great athlete Jackie was but more importantly his dedication to doing the right thing, education and always being the better person. When I got to the Dodgers Jim Gilliam took my education of Jackie to another level talking about how Jackie gained the respect of his teammates. After a while many players would not stay in hotels that would not give Jackie equal treatment.’

Dusty on being a teammate of Hank Aaron during the race to break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homerun’s: ‘Hank took abuse that ranged from taunting to death threats and he always talked about how Jackie handled things. Hank showed me the activist side of Jackie, the man who fought for civil rights and we often met with and talked to Andrew Young, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and Jesse Jackson. Hank gave me a master level course in Jackie Robinson and a first hand view into black history.’

Dusty on what the players of today need to know: ‘The biggest thing is history. Know about those who came before you. Not just Jackie but Roberto Clemente and now the great Asian players the more we know about all of them the better we will understand the true history of baseball.’

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