Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Robinson, baseball great Jackie Robinson’s daughter. I HOPE you already know what a huge impact Jackie Robinson had on the civil rights movement by breaking the color barrier in sports when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But you may not know that he went on to be a key player in the NAACP, was the first black VP of a major corporation (Chock Full O’ Nuts), and started a construction company to build housing for low-income families.
But that’s not why I was so excited to meet Ms. Robinson who is pretty accomplished herself! (Nurse midwife, educator, children’s book author, educational consultant for MLB, and memoirist to name a few.)
All Dad’s life he has been a HUGE Dodgers fan. (They’re looking good for the World Series this year!) When he was just a youngster growing up on a farm in French Creek, WV, he loved to listen to games on the radio. And when Jackie Robinson took the field . . . well, it didn’t get much better than that! He didn’t just admire Jackie Robinson–he wanted to BE Jackie Robinson.
I’ve long loved that image of a poor white boy in the hills of WV in the 1940s and 50s having a black man as his hero. Dad didn’t know much about color barriers or race relations when he was eight, but he knew when a man was worth looking up to. And so he did.
I was blessed, with tears in my eyes, to tell Ms. Robinson how much her father meant to my father. Jackie Robinson has been gone since 1972 having died much too young. Dad is facing his own challenges with Parkinsons. There’s no way the two men will meet this side of heaven. And yet Sharon and I did.
We hugged each other tight–just two daughters who love their daddies.