It’s all over baseball. That lone reminder that the game we love at one point needed to a game open to everyone or it wasn’t really a game for everyone. It reminds us of the great player who wore it and made that difference, and it reminds Yankee fans of another great player who wore it with the same pride and integrity. Today alone, over 1000 uniformed players, coaches, and managers as well as the usual show of fans wore that great number 42 to honor the late Jackie Robinson and remember his legacy on the sport we love. (And Wikipedia dedicates an entire page to the paradox of the number 42, if you’re interested.)
And on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, CC Sabathia had #42 on his back and specialized Brooklyn Dodger blue and designed cleats on his feet to face the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. And boy, did Sabathia have a great outing today. He threw 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 6 Cardinals’ batters. His lone run was a 1-out solo home run in the 8th inning on that 97th pitch to his final batter of the afternoon.
But Sabathia was set-up for the win today thanks in part to the help of Adam Warren who sailed through the rest of the 8th with just 11 pitches for those last 2 outs. Tyler Clippard made things interesting in the 9th, however. He gave up a 1-out home run, then after his 2nd strikeout, gave up a single and a walk (much to the dismay of the standing crowd) before getting his 3rd strikeout, a big swinging K to end the game, inning, and threat and earn his 1st save of the season.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were faced with a mixed bag with the Cardinals’ starter. He threw a whopping 118 pitches into the 6th inning against the Yankees, and while they only got 4 hits off him, they also got a weird mix of 8 total walks and 11 total strikeouts.
In the 1st inning, the starter gave up consecutive walks to Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, a passed ball moved the runners up, and with 2 outs, a wild pitch allowed the speedy Gardner to high-tail it home to score the Yankees first run. Despite loading up the bases with 2 more walks, the Yankees couldn’t add to it then as a strikeout (the 3rd of the inning) ended their threat.
Then in the 6th, the Yankees made their move. Torreyes led-off with a double, though it wasn’t looking like it as a trio of players converged in the short outfield to watch the ball drop between them. Torreyes kicked it up and slid around the tag at 2nd and made it safely (though the Cardinals’ questioned the play initially). Gardner then moved him to 3rd before Torreyes then scored on a really messy play — Hicks hit into a little grounder back to the pitcher, but then he overthrew it to home so Torreyes easily scored. Hicks ended up at 2nd thanks to a late (and off-center) throw to try to get him out there. Hicks would go on to then score on Chris Carter’s single.
Final score: 3-2 Yankees (yes, the Yankees are on a 6-game win streak right now; no, I don’t believe in jinxes today)
Injury news: Matt Holliday was originally scheduled to be the DH today, but due to some “lower back stiffness”, the Yankees opted for Chris Carter as today’s DH.
And while I never feel like I can do justice to the legacy of Jackie Robinson, everyone definitely makes their best effort to say what it means to them every year. Girardi used his pre-game press conference, Sabathia used the Player’s Tribune twitter account, and players used their own social media to honor the man. MLB also found some clips from Robinson’s first MLB game 70 years ago today about 15 miles away from where the Yankees played today. (Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was just east of Prospect Park for those familiar with Brooklyn or want to google it.)
Either way, the game looks like it does today because of amazing men like Jackie Robinson and those who paved the way for his MLB career to be possible. I think of Negro League greats like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, and more; I think of the executives like Branch Rickey, coaches like Leo Durocher, and players like Pee Wee Reese who stood by their decision to integrate in the face of literal death threats and boycotts; I think of fans who truly wanted the best players for their teams, without caring if they were (in Durocher’s sanitized words) “yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a…zebra.” And I think of the countless kids who grew up believing that they too could finally play professional baseball regardless of their skin color.
Every team is now filled with former kids with a simple dream — to play ball. And because of #42, that dream became true for them. How many kids are going to sleep tonight with the same dream that might be realized in just a few short years?
Thank you, Jackie, for your courage to make the impossible possible and showing the world what excellence and integrity looks like.