Jackie Robinson

The man doing what he did best.

The man doing what he did best.

Zach – The world is a better place because of a baseball player named Jackie Robinson. I usually go after the more obscure and esoteric parts of history, but in this case we will be telling a part of history that I don’t think can be told enough. This is one of those rare moments in history where one man stands in the spotlight and changes everything around him.
Anna – To help us with telling the story of this great man, we have with us Countess Matilda of Tuscany, Jane Austen, Julius Caesar and Gaspar Correia.
Zach – I thought Olga was coming.
Anna – I may have accidentally told her about a building demolition that doesn’t actually exist.
Caesar – Very good, then we can discuss Mr. Robinson in peace.
Zach – Let’s start at the beginning. He was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo Georgia. His family were sharecroppers which meant they rented a small plot of land for farming. But a year later his father left and his mother, Mallie, took the family to California. With other members of their extended family they rented a plot and built two houses. Jackie was the only minority kid on his block and faced discrimination from an early age.
Anna – That had to be rough on the poor child. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do without my father.
Matilda – I could have done without my father.
Anna – Jackie had older brothers named Mack and Frank. Mack was a star athlete himself and went to the Olympics and he inspired Jackie to rise and make something of himself. He didn’t have a father, but he had good older brothers.
Caesar – Perhaps Mr. Robinson should have been born in Greece because he would have fit their ideal of the athlete. He was good at every sport he played even from a young age. He played baseball, basketball, tennis, football and track and field. Quite an accomplishment for any Greek.
Anna – I imagine he would have been a fantastic chariot driver. We would have made statues of him for our Hippodrome.
Zach – I’m sure if we still had chariot races he would have rocked them. In college his won several awards and broke his brother, Mack’s Broad Jump record. Now, the thing is, almost all of his team mates were white. So here we see Jackie with experience dealing with a majority of white team members. This experience will came in extremely useful later on.
Anna – It wasn’t just his athletics either. He was awarded membership in the “Order of the Mast and Dagger” which is for outstanding service to the school and whose scholastic and citizenship record is worthy of recognition. Not bad.
Matilda – But now we’ll look at another side of his character. While at Pasadena Junior College, Jackie Robinson got into an argument with police about an unjust arrest of another black student. This wasn’t the first or last. Jackie always fought against segregation and racism wherever he found it. He bristled under it and would not accept it like he was told to do. He was one of the Fearless: the few in history that stood up for their beliefs no matter what.

Next he attended UCLA where he continued to excel at sports

Next he attended UCLA where he continued to excel at sports

Zach – Then his brother Frank died in a motorcycle accident. He was close to his brother and went to UCLA to be closer to Frank’s family. Well, one thing I should mention. He played a lot of sports and rocked them all, but Baseball was considered his worst sport.
Jane Austen- That wasn’t all Mr. Robinson won. While at UCLA, he fell in love with Rachel Isum. They would eventually marry. I’m sure it was a beautiful love story. Perhaps I should write it one day. Her parents were against it at first because Jackie quite college to go professional with his sports. He even went to Hawaii for a short time and played football on their integrated team. There must always be an obstacle.
Gaspar – It was at this time that he visited a Shoalin temple deep in the Tibetan Mountains. He spent a year training and then wandered the earth, righting wrongs and helping people…
Anna – Gaspar.
Gaspar – Yes, my dear Anna?
Anna – Please stop.
Gaspar – Its not my fault you’re afraid to face real history.
Matilda – Let us move on. His semi-professional career was interrupted by the Second World War. Like so many other men at this time, he enlisted. He was assigned to the cavalry. Zach, I believe you were in the cavalry, weren’t you?
Zach – Just for one boring year in Iraq.
Anna – My father, Alexios I was a cavalry man.
Matilda – Yes, we know, You’ve told us a hundred times. But Jackie faced a different battle other than the Holy Roman Empire.
Zach – Nazi Germany. The Empire was long gone, Matilda. It was Nazi Germany then.
Matilda – If you say so. Jackie’s battle in the army was against racism. The army buses made black people sit in the back and Jackie refused. Military police were called and the bus driver pressed charges that included public intoxication even though Jackie didn’t drink. As a military woman myself, I have to add that creating divisiveness in your army is never a good thing. Well, Jackie was court marshaled which is a fancy word for “trial.” He was found innocent because he hadn’t actually done anything wrong. His court Marshal prevented him from going over seas and the army was deprived of what could have been an amazing hero.

Also, let's not forget that he was an officer. A black officer was a rare thing in those days. Yet another challenge to ignorant racists.

Also, let’s not forget that he was an officer. A black officer was a rare thing in those days. Yet another challenge to ignorant racists.

Zach – After the war he played football for the bulldogs again and then coached basketball. Then in 1945 the Kansas City Monarchs sent him a contract. He accepted and began his professional baseball career that would shape the rest of his life. The pay was much better but the constant traveling by bus meant he was away from his family far too often. During that time the Boston Red Sox held a try-out for black players. Jackie tried out but unfortunately it was a shame. The Red Sox just wanted to look like they weren’t a bunch of racist douche bags so they could continue to be racist douche bags in peace. They were the last team to became racially integrated. Red Sox, you suck.

Caesar - A well deserved dislike I believe.

Caesar – A well deserved dislike I believe.

Jane Austen- Then entered an amazing man by the name of Branch Rickey. This was a unique man. He was an idealist. In my time I was an abolitionist and I believe he would have bee as well. His younger years were spent playing sports and he had a passion for baseball. The only thing standing in his way was that he was no good at it. So, Branch Rickey went to college and learned how to manage sports teams instead. A sensible turn of advents, I say. Through a long and colorful career that included setting up the minor leagues as a farming system for new talent, he eventually became the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, Branch saw a cancer in the game he loved so much. His devote religious faith installed him with a belief that all men were equal under the eyes of God and he believed that segregation in baseball was an evil he had to fight. He also saw the business end of it in the fact that some of those black players were better than his white major league players and that he could get them cheaper and before any other ML team did. He was a visionary but also a practical man.

Jackie and Branch fighting the man in their unique way.

Jackie and Branch fighting the man in their unique way.

Matilda – Branch looked through many candidates for his first black major league player and he passed by several that were actually better players than Jackie. Branch was looking for someone special though. He was looking for someone with courage and inner strength.He found the qualities he was seeking in Jackie Robinson. In August 28, 1945, Jackie Robinson met Branch Rickey for the first time and the meeting was a grueling three hours. Branch had to find out if Jackie was capable of standing up to the discrimination he knew would attack Jackie from all angles. He knew he’d face opposition from his team mates, from players on other teams and from the audience. Branch told Jackie that no matter what, he could not fight back. No matter how justified it would be, they’d make it look like he was at fault. Using his Christian faith, Branch told him to turn the other cheek. Jackie couldn’t believe this at first and asked, “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Branch said, “No.” That he was looking for a man “with guts enough not to fight back.” Jackie agreed.
Zach – But first he had to prove himself in the minor leagues and played for the Dodger’s affiliate minor league team the “Royals” down in Daytona Florida. There he faced strong discrimination including a sheriff that threatened to close the ball park and some places that wouldn’t let them play if Jackie played. But somehow Jackie held his head up high and continued to play ball. In his first official game as the first black man to play in the minor leagues, the opponent’s pitcher was told to throw the ball at Jackie’s head. The pitcher refused and Jackie got a home run that first game. Very cool. If that isn’t sticking it to the man, I don’t know what is.
Anna – And something more surprising was that the public grew to love Jackie. His fanbase grew and attendance to the Hippodrome broke records.
Zach – Not Hippodrome.
Anna – Whatever.
Matilda – On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League baseball player. The stadium was packed and Jackie stole home that first game, his signature move. But things were not all happy. In the team some players threatened to leave and the manager gathered them all together and told them in no uncertain terms “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a #%^*&^$# zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.” That ended the little mutiny right on the spot.
Zach – During one game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Phillies manager, Ben Chapman, taunted Jackie relentlessly the whole game. This however had the opposite effect Ben was hoping for. When players and the audience saw the abuse Jackie was subjected to, they actually rallied around Jackie and people grew far more supportive. One of Jackie’s biggest supporters on the team was a man named Pee Wee Reese. During one game where audience members were shouting rude things at Jackie, Pee Wee put his arm around Jackie to show them that he supported him. They later made a statue of that famous scene.

There will always be good men to stand up to hatred and discrimination.

There will always be good men to stand up to hatred and discrimination.

Gaspar – Jackie Robinson continued to beat his opponents by playing Baseball and playing it better than they did. He held his poise and never fought back. This was a man that walked out into a stadium with thousands of people throwing curses at him and looked them in the eye. Few could say that they could do such a thing. Martin Luther Jr. said he was “a legend and a symbol in his own time”, and that he “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.” He opened the door for black people in sports. He was the first and as the first he had all the attention of the haters. Someone had to do it and the world was fortunate that it was a man of such integrity.
Jane Austen – Gaspar, that was actually…nice.
Gaspar – There’s nothing I can add to this man’s story to make it more heroic.
Zach – Jackie spent the rest of his life helping others. He fought discrimination where he found it and helped minority children rise above poverty and become great men through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. On and off the field he was an amazing man that we should look to as a symbol of determination. He was one of the Fearless.

 

Don’t forget Zach’s book. Fearless: Powerful Women of History.

Jane Austen

( From the Zach’s book, Fearless: Powerful Women of History. If you haven’t bought it, you really should. )

http://www.amazon.com/Fearless-Powerful-History-Historian-ebook/dp/B00DTAGTLM/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373319915&sr=1-4&keywords=fearless+powerful

Jane Austen being her bad self.

Jane Austen being her bad self.

Zach – Okay, this time I guess we’re doing Jane Austen or something.
Anna – Don’t sound too excited.
Zach – Please. Guys don’t read this girl stuff.
Anna – Being a little judgmental, are we?
Zach – What? I’m not going to read about girls knitting and drinking tea or whatever.
Anna – Girl stuff? Is that what you believe this to be? I’d have you know that Jane Austen’s books are very popular two hundred years later because they are books that speak of the universality of the human condition. Everyone can read about these characters and say, “hey, I know a person just like that.” They still hold up after two centuries. Do you think that maybe it’s because it’s something more than “girl stuff.”
Zach – Whatever. It’s fine with me. Let’s do this.
Anna – Today we have a panel of women who have read Austen’s books.
Olga – I said I would, yes, but I did not.
Anna – Typical.
Olga – I was cleaning my flame thrower.
Anna – Moving on. We have St. Olga of Kiev, Countess Matilda of Tuscany and Hua Mulan.
Matilda – Before we get into what Jane accomplished, perhaps we should start with who she was.
Anna – Excellent idea. We’ll start with the basics then. Jane was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, England.

The house where Jane grew up.

The house where Jane grew up.

Zach – That means she’s a Sagittarius like me.
Anna – That was very educational.
Matilda – England at this time was the world’s super power. Their fleet was the most powerful fleet in the world and her colonies stretched across the globe. They said that the sun never sets on England. In fact, two of her brothers were in the navy and obtained the rank of admiral. Through much of her adult life, England was at war with France.
Olga – Where is that Napoleon fellow? He from France, dah?
Mulan – Yes, he was the leader of France during the Napoleonic Wars. That’s why they’re called…do I really have to explain this?
Olga – Dah.
Mulan – I refuse. Yes, the largest war the world had seen up to that point was raging and Jane Austen seldom mentions it. But we do see its effects. Jane Austen was…how to put this politely…not a big fan of the French. One of her cousins married a Frenchman who was later beheaded during the Revolution. After that she did not view them with much favor.
Anna – Jane grew up in what we’d call an “upper middle class” family. They were a part of what was called “the landed gentry.” This meant you weren’t a peasant and so were entitled to higher social privileges, but they weren’t rich aristocrats either. Her father was a rector of the Anglican Church. He was country clergy. This also meant that they didn’t have a lot of money. For income they would rent rooms out in their house and tutor students on the side.

Anna - Zach, that's not her house. Zach - Yeah, but that would make it more interesting, wouldn't it?

Anna – Zach, that’s not her house.
Zach – Yeah, but that would make it more interesting, wouldn’t it?

Mulan – They weren’t without connections though. Her brother, Edward was adopted by some one of their rich uncles, Thomas Knight. He and his wife had no children of their own and so they adopted Edward.
Olga – Adopted? But he had family.
Mulan – This was actually common back then. A rich part of the family would often take in a child or two from some of their poorer relations. It was this rich aunt who was Jane’s patron and helped support her writing.
Anna – She also had a brother named George who was handicapped. He had seizures and was probably deaf as well. In one of her family’s letters it speaks of Jane who visited George often, as being able to talk to him with her hands. So, Jane possibly knew some sign language.
Mulan – Also, Jane was an Abolitionist. All her favorite authors were abolitionist and she hated the idea that one man could be property of another. She was considered quite liberal for her day because she also felt that people should make their own choices in life. How rebellious!
Matilda – Very well, more about her life then…Well, when her father retired they sold their and more painfully, their library. And then…
Olga – Wait, wait, wait. I do some homework. These books, they expensive, dah? Rich uncle who make lot of money in India, he pay for many books.
Matilida – Yes, that’s correct. Many of the books that shaped Jane’s literary identity were bought by her uncle-in-law who was governor of India. What is your point?
Olga – Well, well, this governor make much money selling opium. Yes, he sell other stuff, but he also sold opium.
Zach – Back then they didn’t understand the dangers of it.
Anna – Yes, this shows that Jane’s world wasn’t as closed off to the world as we often think. Her cousin-in-law was killed by French revolutionaries and her books and shawls came from India. In fact, one of her first unpublished books was about a girl that goes to India to find a husband.
Matilda – As I was saying, after her father sold the house, they moved to Bath which was an ancient Roman resort town. Gentry from all over would go to Bath during the summer to relax on vacation.

Zach -Nice looking place. Inhabited since Roman times. I'm going to say the whole place was haunted and that Jane hunted evil ghosts and solved mysteries. Anna - Just stop, Zach. Please stop.

Zach -Nice looking place. Inhabited since Roman times. I’m going to say the whole place was haunted and that Jane hunted evil ghosts and solved mysteries.
Anna – Just stop, Zach. Please stop.

Olga – (laughs) Funny name. Why called Bath.
Anna – Because there were ancient Roman baths there, so they called it Bath.
Matilda – Many of Jane’s books feature Bath prominently and was quite influential on her life and writing.
Zach – Persuasion, especially. (Everyone looks at Zach.) Um…so I’ve heard.
Mulan – And then Jane’s father died and Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother were left with very little. They moved around and stayed with friends and family until their rich brother finally found a cheap cottage for them to live in and it was here that Jane wrote many of her famous books.
Olga – Why there?
Mulan – Simple. She needed the money. Jane was always writing. Even as a young girl she was writing stories and sharing them with her family.
Zach – In fact, she was somewhat of an amateur historian herself. She wrote “A History of England from the Reign of Henry IV to the Death of Charles 1st. By a partial, prejudiced and Ignorant Historian.”
Anna – Wow, Zach. Sounds like you two have a lot in common. Both born in mid-December, love reading and write inaccurate and awful histories.
Zach – Hers was meant to be comedic. It was actually a parody of a popular history book that she didn’t like.
Mulan – (Covers mouth as she laughs.) Sounds like Zach knows more about Jane Austen than he leads on.
Zach – What? No, that’s not it all. I don’t read chick-lit. I read books about war, pirates, and explosions. I just make it my business to know who else writes history. That’s all.
Olga – That all? (Olga laughs.)
Zach – Let’s move on.
Anna – Indeed. So, Jane started writing books and editing old books she wrote. Her brother, Henry, was her literary agent and sent in her books and organized the deals. At first her books were anonymous. It wasn’t the ideal social situation for a young woman to write novels for a living. That wasn’t scandalous and was becoming more common, but it wasn’t exactly a goal to aspire for.
Olga – Like Zachy, she write novels! Funny.
Matilda – Not funny because it was her only source of income. She wrote books because she loved writing, but she published them because she needed to eat.
Mulan – She never married. She fell in love once but the man’s family did everything they could to separate them. She apparently wasn’t high enough on the social ladder for them.
Zach – You can see this disillusionment in her books with Pride and Prejudice being sparkly and happy, like a fairy tale, but Persuasion is far more intimate and melancholy in its tone and portrayal of love. You see this pined for lost love and many think it came from her own lost chance at love.
Anna – You seem to know an awful lot about “chick-lit,” there, Zach.
Zach – Okay, I may have had to read one or two Austen novels in school or something. Everyone does.
Anna – Yes, but…
Zach – Drop it.

Mulan - Zach's personal copy of the book. Zach - What? That's a lie. Don't believe her folks.

Mulan – Zach’s personal copy of the book.
Zach – What? That’s a lie. Don’t believe her folks.

Matilda – She died in 1817 when she was 41. Some of her books were published in her lifetime and gained her some recognition, but really, she was just starting her career when she died and several of her books were published after her death by her brother.
Mulan – So, that covers the basics of her life, correct.
Anna – In a very brief manner, yes.
Mulan – But let’s find out more about who she was as a person. We tend to have this image of Jane Austen in our minds, one that is serious, painfully polite and somewhat tedious. We see her sipping tea and talking quietly with her neighbors while they knit or sew or whatever English women did. In the biography that her family wrote after her death, they did everything to paint this picture of her, that she was the height of decorum. But is this true? What was she really like?
Matilda – I have one. One of the first stories her family remembered about her was when she was a little girl, nine or ten years old. Her father was returning to town in a fancy coach of some kind and Jane wanted a ride in it but the coach would only go into town and no further. So, she grabbed her little brother Henry and walked the six miles to town to meet up with the coach. This is the first example of who she really was. She wasn’t some meek, take orders and stay silent kind of woman. She saw a goal and went after it.
Olga – She has spirit!
Mulan – As we said, her family took in boarders as a source of income and with six brothers, Jane was constantly surrounded by men. The stories she wrote during this time were filled with violence, horror, grossness, insanity, immorality and the occasional joke about gays in the navy. “Rears and Vices” she called it, making a play of words on the ranks of admirals.
Anna – So far this isn’t painting a picture of a quiet, unseen woman working on sewing in the parlor.
Olga – Oh! Oh! I know something!
Zach – Go for it.
Olga – She went to school at Oxford!
Anna – In a way, you are correct, Olga. She did in fact go to school in Oxford…the town of Oxford, not the famous university there. Like many girls of her age (7 years old) and social standing, she was sent away for private tutoring.
Mulan – Many said that Jane was shy around strangers and sometimes came off as aloof, but very funny, witty and sharp around people that got to know her. From what I gathered, I believe she was an introvert and spent most of her time in her head. She didn’t go out of her way to make friends and preferred to observe human nature with a select few people she trusted. This is why we get sometimes contradictory images of her. One, the quiet almost anti-social girl that didn’t want to talk and the sharp tongued fire brand of her letters and friends observations.
Matilda – We can see that fiery and sometimes irreverent personality far more clearly in her notebooks she wrote as a girl and young woman. She loved to parody and make fun of famous writers and politicians of her day. She also really loved to make fun of her own society. She was an English woman through and through, but even she saw that some things in her culture were ridiculous and wasn’t afraid of pointing them out. In her books you can see this in a far more subtle way. Her books are always quietly mocking and shedding light on the things she thought stupid.
Zach – I have a few quotes here where she makes fun of stuff…here they are.
“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I have ever heard of.”
Keep in mind, later in life she was offered marriage to a somewhat wealthy man but turned it down because she did not love him.
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”
“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”
Mulan – Xie Xie, Zach. Those quotes are nice but to really see her sword sharp wit, you must read her books.
Olga – I no read books. Any killing?
Mulan – No.

"Her name was Elizabeth Bennet. Her name was Elizabeth Bennet."

“Her name was Elizabeth Bennet. Her name was Elizabeth Bennet.”

Olga – Mutilations?
Mulan – No.
Olga – At least a good burning?
Mulan – No burnings. Sorry. There is a lot of human struggle, but mostly of the normal life variety. What she does is take the normal life that she knew so well and wrote about it in detail. No, her heroines don’t save the world from evil tyrants, their struggles seem just as important and harrowing because the characters seem real to us. But there are seductions.
Olga – Okay, I can go for that.
Anna – I know something of writing books, having written one myself. Jane’s books are at the start of the modern novel. Her earlier works were more like the old morality plays that were full of melodrama and dues ex machinas. However, novels like Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are firmly in the modern novel category. Unlike her predecessors, she tried to capture the realities of life. So, all those modern books you’re reading? Austen was a pioneer of that.
Matilda – And many of the places in her books were places she had visited. In fact, she was quite well traveled within England. The war made it impossible to travel elsewhere, especially through French occupied territory.
Olga – Dah, I go read Janey’s book. Which one?
Mulan – Sense and Sensibility. I love the battle of reason versus emotion. As a soldier, I appreciate the honor and respect shown from the colonel character.
Anna – Pride and Prejudice. It the funniest, most dramatic and well crafted of her stories.
Matilda – Emma. It’s light hearted but has a serious lesson about right and wrong and helping people.
Zach – Persuasion. It’s so much more personal and tender while showing some of the harsh realities of love and uncaring family. It’s about a lost love and a second chance.
Anna – Really, Zach?
Zach – What?
Anna – You seem to know an awful lot about this.
Zach – Well, I just, you know. Read it once. For school.
Olga – Why is Zachy looking around like he nervous?
Zach – I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Mulan – (whispers to Anna) Let me try something. (Speaks up to Zach) So, on to characters now. In Mansfield Park, we have the main character of Fanny Price. Is she a weak willed wimp or deceptively strong? Zach, what do you think?
Zach – Oh, I don’t know. Whatever.
Matilda – I think she’s a spineless nobody.
Mulan – Total wimp.
Zach – Now hold on. Just because she’s quiet and meek doesn’t mean she’s weak. She just has different priorities than we do.
Mulan – No, Zach, you’re wrong.
Matilda – Yes indeed, she’s aweak-willed coward.
Zach – No she’s not! She’s a deeply complex and fascinating woman!
(Anna, Mulan and Matilda look at each other and nod. Olga just looks confused.)
Anna – And with that, startling revelation, we’ll end it here.
Zach – Startling revelation? I don’t know what you mean. You’re blowing things out of proportion.
Anna – Of course, Zach. Of course.

Don't be hatin'.

Don’t be hatin’.