BY ERIC SMITH
On the evening of October 23rd, 1972, my father came to me and simply said "Son, Jackie Robinson died today." Now I was only seven years old at the time and still several years away from getting into sports of any kind. I knew the name Jackie Robinson well enough in that I'd seen him on Sesame Street and other TV programs of the day and I knew that he'd played baseball. I did know that he'd hit something like 142 home runs but was not impressed because by that time of course both Willie Mays and Hank Aaron who were still playing at the time had already hit well over five hundred homers apiece.
Dad looked at me and said "Son, Jackie Robinson was so much more than the number of home runs he hit." In the coming years I came to understand exactly what my Dad meant; that that gray haired seemingly old man I remembered seeing on TV programs as a child was in fact a giant among men. He was not only a hero for his time, for my time, but for all time.
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson exemplified what it meant to be a man and he defined what it was to be an American. "There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free." said Mr. Robinson in his call for equal rights. Some will argue that Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers took the greatest risk when he chose Jackie Robinson to be the one to integrate Major League Baseball in 1947 but that is not true for it was not Mr. Rickey who was charged with the task of once and for all proving the lie that is White Supremacy by playing on the white man's field, playing by his rules, and not only beating him at his own game but beating him decisively.
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