Cancel Jackie Robinson Day, Part II

I’m picking up where I left off on my last blog. Jackie Robinson Day, originally a fine idea, has outlived its usefulness and should be cancelled. Everybody knows that Robinson was the first African-American to cross Major League Baseball’s color line. Few know more than that.

I’ve come up with a better idea than repeating Robinson Day year after year, a policy that leads to silliness. For example, as part of the ten day long festivities, Washington Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos wore Robinson’s number 42. Ramos was born in Venezuela in 1987, long after Robinson retired and probably grew up idolizing Chico Carrasquel. The current Nationals came into existence in 2005, 33 years after Robinson’s 1972 death. If you ask me, none of that adds up.

As CC Sabathia observed about every baseball player in the major leagues wearing 42: “It kind of waters it down. I could see the Dodgers since that was his team, but not everyone else.”

I realize that we’re talking about preserving and, hopefully, furthering Robinson’s memory. But why limit our history lesson to Robinson when there are so many other worthy players.

How about establishing Robinson’s April 15th anniversary as the date that, each year, outstanding players from different decades would be recognized.

My first choice would be Honus Wagner to represent the decade from 1900-1910. An eight-time batting champion who is generally considered by baseball historians as the all-time greatest shortstop is a great choice.

Or we could go with Christy Mathewson who in his career, few could tell you, led the league in wins four times, won five strikeout titles, won 30 or more games four times, pitched four shutouts and ten complete games in World Series competition and won 373 games. Each decade through 1960 would have a different superstar Hall of Famer honored. When we reach 2020, we’ll extend the selection period through 1970.

Once the cycle is completed, baseball could return to 1900 to start all over.

My system would raise awareness about baseball’s rich and diverse history that dates back over a century. Fans could learn about or reacquaint themselves with some of the truly outstanding players whose names, unlike Robinson’s, have faded from memory.

If the federal government can consolidate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays into President’s Day, then Major League Baseball can rotate its annual honorees.

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