Jackie Robinson And Me

Today is April 15th, a day infamously known as “Tax Day”. In 1912, the R.M.S Titanic sunk and Fenway Park opened its doors to baseball.

And on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played in his first regular-season major league baseball game, opening doors of an entirely different type.

Robinson died in 1972. I was all of six years-old at the time, and never got to meet him. But I do have a story to share.

On April 15, 1997 I was living and working in Boston. Needless to say I missed New York a great deal. I had told the future love-of-my life days before that I wished I could be at Shea Stadium that night, the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy. I don’t know why, I just felt like I needed to be there. But there was really no way it could happen, as I was deep into a project at work, away from my desk and my email.

In these pre-cell phone/texting days, a secretary interrupted my work to tell me I had an “emergency” phone call – the only acceptable reason to disturb our progress. Turns out that tickets for the sold-out game at Shea between the Dodgers and the Mets had been offered to the above-mentioned love-of-my life. I was told there was now one ticket for me if I could find a way to get there.

I knew that the planes flew every hour between Logan and LaGuardia Airports, but I still had to get my work done and get to Logan – not an easy task during a “Big Dig” rush hour. After I realized I had maxxed out my credit cards with payday a few days away, I called my credit card company, asking for an emergency credit limit increase. Moments later I purchased my ticket for the flight.

Of course my co-workers were incredulously trying to figure out WHY I needed to drop everything to go, especially because my “baseball fan” existence didn’t even seem to explain it. I worked hard to get done, but the clock kept moving closer and closer to my departure time. Finally, I could leave, less than 30 minutes before takeoff. I knew I couldn’t make it in time via the “T”, so I searched rather inpatiently for a cab. I ended up run-walking quite a few blocks until I found one.

I got in the cab and told the driver when my plane was taking off at Logan, and he laughed. Knowing right away this wasn’t my guy, I jumped out of the cab and into the path of an empty cab behind us. As I jumped in the back, I started telling the driver my impossible plight. He made no promises other than to do his best. He was an older gentleman, and made a comment about younger people always waiting until the last minute under his breath. I explained to him what I was doing and when he asked me WHY? – I stumbled to tell him that I didn’t know, except that I knew in my heart I had to.

Then the man said something I will never forget. He said that he had never imagined he would be risking his life to take a white man to the airport in order to honor Jackie Robinson. He said that my “reason” made all the sense in the world to him, because it was God’s way of telling “this stubborn black man” that this world was indeed changing. The very conversation he was having with God before I jumped in front of his cab.

My trip from Storrow Drive to the terminal took exactly nine minutes. I never felt I was in harm’s way – but I can’t be certain those in other vehicles felt the same way. As I went to pay him, he asked me to do him a favor. He asked me to send him back a commemorative program from the game. I mailed it to him the next day, since I made the plane and the ceremonies with seconds to spare. You can’t make this stuff up.
**********
When I moved back to New York, I found out quite by accident that Jackie Robinson was buried in a cemetery a short walk away from where I had moved. It took me a few tries to find the gravesite, but I finally did. During my search online for the exact location, I noticed that most references on the web mentioned the site was in terrible shape. Since that time, I’ve tried to “visit” at least once a month during the warm months, picking up the trash and trying to make the area look presentable.

Jackie was preceded into death by his son, Jack Robinson, Jr. The gravesite overlooks the former Interborough Parkway, since renamed the Jackie Robinson Parkway. If you ever want to visit, let me know – perhaps I’ll join you.

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One Response to “Jackie Robinson And Me”

  1. fredyt3 Says:

    Announcer Dave – Thanks so much for sharing your story. It was very touching……not only for baseball fans but for all of humanity.

    Cheers

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