Friday, 14 September 2012

Make a Wish

Today, ESPN-dot-COM have an interesting thought exercise on their web site.  They asked a number of baseball players and celebrities a 'turn back the clock' question - if you could pick a single game in the entire history of Major League Baseball, and go back in time to see it, which game would you select?

If you could go back in time and see any baseball game, what game would you choose and why?
You can pick from any game from baseball history, any game at all. It can even be one you saw in person but would like to see again.

The one stipulation was to apply the Wrinkle in Time rule - that is to say, you cannot alter history in any way (other than that, perhaps, you were not alive or in attendance on that day) - the outcome, the play, the weather, the stale, over-priced hot dogs and warm beer would remain as they were.

According to their survey, the single most chosen game amongst players, celebrities, and their own staff was the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers - Boston Braves game in which Jackie Robinson made his debut as the first black player in the big leagues.

My reaction to this is, "really?  No; REALLY?"

Of all the games ever played - the Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the 1960 Pirates/Yankees Game 7, the May 1979 Cubs/Phillies 23-22 game, the 'Bloody Sock" performance of Kurt Schilling - the Jackie Robinson game would be the single game you would want to see?

Not to diminish the significance of the game, and at the risk of wandering into territory that is to say the least impolitic, I find this response to be an admixture of equal parts political correctness and dishonesty.

The importance of Jackie Robinson, both to the game of baseball as a historical talisman, should not be understated.  His breaking of the so-called "color barrier" was a pivotal moment in the fabric of our country, and that deserves some consideration.

But was the game itself really worth consideration beyond the list of memorable contests?  From the perspective of play, the answer has got to be no. I can think of dozens of games, easily, that offered more on-the-field drama or excitement.

Doubt it?  Quick - tell me who won the game, and what was the score?  Don't Google it before answering. (Answer to be provided at the end).  I am guessing that nine of ten people, to be conservative, cannot.

Perhaps it's due to the historical significance of the game?  But if that's the case, is it more significant than the first game?  The first American League game?  I would argue that the first professional game would be at least as significant as the Jackie Robinson game.

Maybe the interest implied is so that the person could claim that he was at the game when it happened.  OK.  But that seems the answer to a different question, don't you think?

Jackie Robinson was a great player, and his appearance was a significant milestone, but I think this sort of almost forced reverence makes more of him in history than he was in life.  And that in my opinion, diminishes rather than elevates his legacy.

(Answer: In Jackie Robinson's first game on 15th April 1947, the Dodgers beat the Braves 5-3, in front of just 12,623 fans in Ebbet's Field).

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