Jackie Robinson Day is sacred in baseball, as it should be, but the COVID-19 global pandemic that’s shut down Major League Baseball and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide didn’t spare the April 15 celebration last week. There were no games, no 42 jerseys, no moving tributes.
I suspect April 15, 2021, will be different.
That said, this podcast produced by MLB and the St. Louis Cardinals is by far the best JR-related content I’ve seen during this strange time in baseball. It’s a recording of a live interview Robinson gave to KMOX radio in St. Louis in 1960. One of the hosts is legendary Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, who besides calling games also hosted a radio show that touched on topics of the day.
On that day, Buck, his co-host and Robinson talked baseball and his memories of breaking the game’s color barrier, but they also discussed race relations, racism and African-Americans’ struggles for equality. They even took calls from listeners, live on the radio. It’s a fascinating snapshot of American life and Robinson’s activism for black Americans’ civil rights. And remember, this was recorded in 1960 — four years after Robinson retired, five and six years after the twin Brown v. Board Supreme Court rulings on integration, and eight years before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Robinson died 12 years later in 1972 at the age of 53.