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"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

Don Newcombe and Matt Kemp before the game on Jackie Robinson Day (April 15, 2011) at Dodger Stadium.
Don Newcombe and Matt Kemp before the game on Jackie Robinson Day (April 15, 2011) at Dodger Stadium.

Recently I noticed that True Blue LA has had a number of visitors via a search of the phrase "Why is [was] Jackie Robinson important?" in various internet search engines. Presumably these visitors are mostly young students researching an assignment for a school project relating to February being African-American History Month. After they took a wide-eyed gander at the frivolity we engage in here, I hope our visitors found the information they were seeking, as well as visiting the website for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, initiated by his widow, Rachel Robinson, a tremendous woman in her own right, and an embodiment of the Jackie Robinson quote in the headline above.

I am far from qualified to discuss the historical impact of Jackie Robinson, African-American history, and the state of race relations in the United States in 1947. (Nor is this an invitation to get political in the comments section. It is not.) To state it simply, 65 years ago, when baseball was segregated (as was significant portions of this country), yet truly the National Pastime, as popular then as the NFL is today, it must have taken tremendous amounts of courage to be the man to break the "color line" in major league baseball.

This year will mark the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in the Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. On April 15, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers will host the San Diego Padres in a Sunday day game, during which I assume major league baseball will, for the fourth consecutive year, continue the new tradition of having all the players wear the number 42, otherwise retired from all of Major League Baseball*. The Dodgers, as is their tradition, will honor Robinson before the game as well.

Consider coming out to Dodger Stadium for that game on what will hopefully be a beautiful spring afternoon in Los Angeles. Then, as well as now, are fine times to reflect on what life must have been like in those times for the men and women who faced formidable obstacles that might be difficult, for some, to imagine today, yet persevered in the face of those challenges with grace and dignity, like the Robinson family did.

As an aside, I'd like to note that in 1946, the NFL reintegrated after a period of unofficial, but de facto segregation, as a condition for the relocated Cleveland Rams to play their home games in the Coliseum. The first African-American player to sign (with the Los Angeles Rams) and reintegrate the NFL that year was Kenny Washington, the All-American backfield teammate of Robinson on the UCLA football team of the early 1940s, and a graduate of Los Angeles's Lincoln High School as well.

The field decoration at Dodger Stadium for Jackie Robinson Day five years ago.

*except for the grandfathered, and grandfather-aged, Mariano Rivera, the last active major-league wearing #42.