in town for free camps
John U. Bacon writes a short introduction to the attached video highlighted in this month's Michigan Today profiling civil rights pioneer Branch Rickey and his relationship with the immortal Jackie Robinson. Rickey was a 1911 graduate of Michigan Law School.
Like so many great Wolverines, he was born in Ohio but shook it off. Interesting that Charles Thomas, a black player on Rickey's Ohio Wesleyan team (at that point Rickey was Wesleyan's coach) was a catalyst for Rickey's focus on discrimination in baseball. The incident in particular - a not unusual story of a hotel refusing to lodge a person of color - took place in South Bend, but sadly could have occurred virtually anywhere in the U.S. at that time.
This is well worth 25 minutes of your time, and as "42" hits the theaters, remember that Branch Rickey was a law school alumnus and a model representative of UofM in many ways.
There is also a related story by Bacon regarding the impact Rickey had on Fred Wilpon (Mets owner, Michigan man, and namesake of the baseball-softball complex) that's worth a look. LINK. Money quote? Money quote:
He practically invented Ladies' Day—which integrated an almost entirely male domain—spring training, and baseball's minor league system. Former St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial said, "An all-star team of our top farm clubs probably could have finished third behind the Cardinals and Dodgers. This was Branch Rickey's masterpiece."
I recently began applying to graduate schools for a PhD program in sports psychology. While writing my personal statement, I was forced to think about what sports represent and mean to people, specifically myself. Trying to put "what sports mean to me" into writing led to a long, winding road trying to explain something that has always been inherent in me, but I have never even considered trying to define.
For some people, sports is an escape from the monotony of everyday life-- an escape from the world. For others, it represents past unfulfilled dreams. For still others, it is just something fun to do at night.
For me, it goes beyond that. To me, sports are one of the most primal, real things about life. They can bring out the best, and worst, in people. Sports transcend time. The achievements of a player, or team, live on long after the game is played. Sports are a connection between generations. They are a bridge that allows father and son to share something they otherwise may never have. They bring together entire cities under a singular purpose. They allow for people with nothing in common outside of sports to share an equal footing.
From the times of Jackie Robinson, sports have also been an engine for change. Often social reform takes place only after the same lines have been crossed in sports. If not for baseball, and Jackie Robinson specifically, evolving race relations may have taken even longer to improve.
So, I'm done rambling, and now I leave you with one decievingly difficult question: What do sports mean to you?