On Friday, Legendary Pictures released the highly anticipated period piece, 42. The film tells the story of legendary Brooklyn Dodger’s 2nd baseman, Jackie Robinson while documenting the unique relationship between himself and the Dodgers trailblazing owner, Branch Rickey.
Robinson battled adversity and became the first colored ball player to play in Major League Baseball since the 1800’s. His story is one of determination, moral as well as strength and is well documented in the feature film, 42.
Although Robinson’s effect can be felt league wide, the Toronto Blue Jays share some unique ties to the 1962 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
Lets go back in time a few years prior to that snowy day in April, 1977.
Before game 2 of the 1972 World Series between Oakland and Cincinnati, Robinson would make one of his last public addresses before a sell out crowd at the Reds Riverfront Stadium. In his speech, Robinson would go on to mention that the Majors wouldn’t be truly integrated until a colored manager was in place. Catching and going on to take Series MVP credentials was Oakland’s Gene Tenace…
Flash forward to the 1973 season. In a game between the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres, Cubs manager, Whitey Lockman went out to argue a close call and was eventually tossed from the game for his antics. The Cubs were left in the hands of then 1st base coach Ernie Banks as he took over following the field boss’ dismissal. Although he was not hired as a manager, Banks would become the first colored Manager in MLB history with this decision. Playing Right Field for the Padres that day was a 29 year old Clarence (Cito) Gaston…
Cito Gaston would go on to become the Blue Jays Hitting Coach in 1983 and would eventually take over for Jimy Williams as manager of the team during the 1989 season. In his new position, he would guide the Jays to their 2nd ALCS appearance however the team would fall to the eventual World Series Champion, Oakland Athletics.
When Gaston was given the opportunity to pick his coaches during the 1990 season, he chose Gene Tenace to join his staff. The pair would go on to help secure the Blue Jays their first 2 World Series in the coming years with Gaston becoming the first colored Manager to lead a MLB team to a World Series title.
Small world, eh?
Who knows what the Blue Jays record books would look like had it not been for Robinson’s bravery and perseverance so many years ago. Below is a brief look at some of the Blue Jays all time totals, all of which lead the franchise in their respective categories.
Games – 1450. Tony Fernandez
Hits – 1583. Tony Fernandez
Triples – 72. Tony Fernandez
Runs – 889. Carlos Delgado
Doubles – 343. Carlos Delgado
Home Runs – 336. Carlos Delgado
RBI – 1058. Carlos Delgado
Walks – 827. Carlos Delgado
At Bats – 5470. Vernon Wells
Stolen Bases – 72. Lloyd Moesby
Franchise numbers aside, 4 of the 9 names to grace the Blue Jays Level of excellence share the same skin color as number 42 not to mention 2013’s newest inductee, Carlos Delgado.
With out Robinson, Rickey and a handful of other individuals who helped break the color barrier in the MLB, who knows where this game would be at this point in history.
This was just a perspective from a Blue Jays stand point. A few of the 1000′s upon 1000′s of stories that were no doubt influenced by Jackie Robinson, one of the most important individuals in the history of this game.