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These are game days that go way beyond the actual one that was taking place on Friday night as the Astros and the rest of Major League Baseball celebrated the life and times of Jackie Robinson.
It is a chance for every person to reflect on the advances that Robinson made for anyone that has ever faced adversity to reach their ultimate goals. I’m not talking adversity like something didn’t go the way you planned and it put you in a bind. Has your life and the lives of your loved ones threatened just for doing something you believed in? There are plenty other examples of courage this man showed throughout his life that is the reason why the game is the way it is now. Hall of Famer Monte Irvin joined former Astros Jimmy Wynn, JR Richard, Enos Cabell, Kevin Bass, & James Mouton as part of the Astros celebration for Jackie Robinson Day. Irvin played in the Negro Leagues with Jackie and soon followed him into Major League Baseball in 1949 when he signed to play with the rival of Robinson’s Dodgers, the New York Giants. “When he came to the Majors(Major League Baseball), we pretty much knew that was going to be the desmise of the Negro Leagues,” Irvin said. “But, we didn’t care because we knew there’s a price you have to pay for progress.” Many professions and passions have had “first” people to make an impact. Yet, when you think about what Irvin just said, there was a real “bigger picture” way of thinking. Some players dreams of playing ball at a high level would probably ended with the league’s biggest star taking a chance and making history. Irvin actually had the chance to go to the Major’s with the Dodgers in 1945 when he was approached by Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. “I just got out of the War (World War Two) and I needed maybe a year or two to get myself together.” That’s what Irvin says he told Rickey.
Irvin points to the strength of Robinson’s wife Rachel as source of inspiration to her late husband. “I understand Jackie tried to quit a couple of times,” Irvin said. “She’d tell him no, this means too much! You can do it and keep going out there!” There’s no doubt that the chance at breaking the color barrier was pretty overwhelming at times for Jackie Robinson. However, he knew this going into the ballparks, train stations, restaurants, and all the places he would go to while playing pro ball. Who doesn’t remember the “Toy Cannon” Jimmy Wynn? “I’m where I’m at now because of him,” Wynn said. “My dream came true because of Jackie Robinson. All the things I have done are because of Jackie Robinson and I am honored and very proud to be part of what is happening today here at Minute Maid Park.” Although Wynn never met Robinson, he still follows the example Robinson set during his life and the way his father taught him to live as well, “understand the World and respect everybody.”
Other African-Americans have made monumental accomplishments like Joe Louis beating Max Schmelling to win the Heavyweight Title, Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin during the reign of the Nazi party, or football players like Jerry Levias breaking down barriers playing for SMU in the 1960’s just to name a few. This is a day that goes beyond sports. It transcends everyday life and we should all be thankful to have such a great role model for perseverance in the way that Jackie Robinson lived his life.