Baines: “It hasn’t sunk in” after Baseball Hall of Fame tour
By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 29
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Though clearly struck by the moment, Harold Baines kept his emotions in check just as he always has — even on a day he’ll never forget.
“I hold it inside. It’ll come out,” Baines said Tuesday, sitting just a few feet from where his bronze plaque will hang in the Baseball Hall of Fame come late July. “It’s very special, but it still hasn’t really sunk in.
“I’m very honored, very grateful for what’s going to be happening in the next few months.”
Baines and reliever Lee Smith were selected for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas in December by a 16-member veterans committee. It took 12 votes by the panel to gain election — Smith was unanimous, while Baines received the requisite 12, one more than Lou Piniella. Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, the late Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina were selected last week by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. All six will be inducted July 21.
Baines started his career as an outfielder before an injury late in the 1986 season forced him into the role of a designated hitter and had a solid 22-year career, retiring after the 2001 season. He finished with 1,628 RBIs, 384 home runs and 2,866 hits, and was a six-time All-Star. But he never received more than 6.1 percent of the vote by the writers in five appearances on the ballot, well below the 75 percent threshold for induction.
In the key WAR stat, as compiled by baseballreference.com, Baines’ lifetime total was tied for 545th.
Baines also never finished higher than ninth in an MVP vote, never was among the top five hitters in the annual batting race, never had 200 hits, never hit 30 homers in a season, and was hurt by the bias of purists against the DH position. He will join Martinez and Frank Thomas as the only players in the Hall who spent more than half their games as a DH.
On this day none of that mattered. Nor did the fact that the panel appointed by the Hall board that voted him in included longtime Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, his biggest supporter, and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, the first skipper Baines played for when he broke in as a rookie with the White Sox in 1980.
“There’s always a chance,” said Baines, who was accompanied by his wife, Marla, on a tour of the Hall of Fame to prepare for induction day. “I don’t worry about things I can’t control. When stuff is out of your hands, you really don’t step back and dwell on it. I’m just fortunate that the modern-day veterans committee thought it was worth honoring me.”
“I’ve been blessed with this honor and I’m going to try to uphold it as best I can,” he said.
Baines, selected by the White Sox as the top pick in the 1977 amateur draft out of St. Michael’s High School in Easton, Maryland, played for five major league teams but spent nearly all of his first 10 seasons with the White Sox and currently serves as a team ambassador in their community relations department.
Despite doubts about his Hall of Fame credentials, Baines, a dependable left-handed hitter with a smooth swing, did finish with five more RBIs than first-ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (in 824 more at-bats) and lost more than 120 games to two work stoppages that deprived him of an opportunity to reach 3,000 hits, one of the benchmarks for selection to the Hall of Fame.
“That’s part of the game,” Baines, soon to be 60, said. “I’m thankful that I played for 22 years. The work stoppage has made it better for the guys that are playing now. So if I had to be a part of that, then I’m all for it.”
Editor’s Note: Baines played for the Cleveland Indians for part of the 1999 season.
How Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, helped him break baseball’s color line
January 30, 2019
An the field and off, Rachel Robinson was a pillar of emotional support.
Author: Chris Lamb, Professor of Journalism, IUPUI
Disclosure statement: Chris Lamb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: IUPUI provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Jackie Robinson will be remembered for his courage, athleticism, tenacity and sacrifice on Jan. 31, the centennial of his birth. By confronting Jim Crow – both as a baseball player and as a civil rights activist – he changed America.
“Back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable,” Martin Luther King Jr. said of Robinson, “he underwent … the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking through the lonesome byways toward the high road of freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”
I’ve written three books about Robinson, in addition to dozens of columns and articles. I used to wonder how Robinson persevered in the face of so much hate and ugliness. He was certainly as tough a competitor as any athlete who ever lived, and he had an unwavering religious faith.
But I eventually realized that he couldn’t have achieved what he did without his wife, Rachel, whose spirit was as formidable as his own.
Sure, he had his mother, Mallie; his minister, Karl Downs; Brooklyn Dodgers’ president, Branch Rickey, who signed him; and sportswriter Wendell Smith, who served as his ghostwriter and confidante.
Rachel, however, was the only constant.
“She was not simply the dutiful wife,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Roger Wilkins said about Rachel. “She had to live through the death threats, endure the vile screams of the fans and watch her husband get knocked down by pitch after pitch. … She was beautiful and wise and replenished his strength and courage.”
Rachel Isum met Jackie Robinson at UCLA when she was a freshman and he was a senior. Jackie was a four-letter athlete and “a big man on campus,” as she described him.
They married five years later on Feb. 10, 1946, a few months after Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey signed Jackie to play for the organization’s top minor league team, the Montreal Royals.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the wedding, the Robinsons left the relative comfort of Los Angeles to go to spring training in Florida. Robinson would have to confront both baseball’s color line and the Jim Crow laws of the South, where blacks who challenged segregation risked jail, injury or death.
Rachel knew she and Jackie could not react to every racial epithet hurled their way. But she wasn’t averse to quiet forms of resistance. When their plane stopped in New Orleans on their flight to Florida, Rachel saw something she had never seen before: separate restrooms for “white women” and “colored women.” She defiantly walked into restroom marked “white women.”
During that first spring training, segregation laws prohibited the Robinsons from staying in the same oceanfront hotel in Daytona Beach with his white teammates. Nor could they eat in white restaurants. They stayed with a black family and ate their meals in a black restaurant.
Robinson, feeling the weight of representing millions of black Americans, struggled during the beginning of spring training. He had trouble hitting, and he hurt his throwing arm so badly that he could barely lift it.
Rachel calmed Jackie every night in their small room, massaging his sore arm as he raged against the indignities he faced on and off the field. She also learned she was pregnant while they were in Daytona Beach, but decided not to tell him.
“There was such an incredible amount of pressure, it might have driven two people apart,” she told Sports Illustrated in 2013. “But it had the opposite effect on us, it pushed us together.”
At some point, as Rachel later told Robinson biographer Arnold Rampersad, Jackie began to refer to himself not as “I” but as “we.” Jackie and Rachel were united as civil rights activists; they knew, as Rachel put it, “that the issue wasn’t simply baseball but life and death, freedom and bondage, for a lot of people.”
As the spring progressed, Jackie’s arm improved and so did his confidence. He played the 1946 season with the Montreal Royals before being promoted to the Dodgers the next spring. He established himself as one of the best players in the National League. But the racist epithets continued to rain down on him from the stands and the dugouts of opposing teams.
Rachel was determined to make their home a refuge from that malevolence, whether the Robinsons were living in Montreal, New York City, or later, in Stamford, Connecticut.
“We had a pledge to each other that we were going to try to keep the house a haven,” she said. “Someplace safe. Someplace we didn’t have to replay the mess outside.”
Rachel raised their three children while her husband was playing baseball and crusading for civil rights. After earning her master’s degree, she worked as a nurse-therapist and researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She then taught nursing at Yale University while she served as director of the Connecticut mental health center.
After Jackie died, Rachel created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has provided scholarships for 1,400 college students.
When the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” was released in 2013, Brian Helgeland, the film’s writer and director, asked Rachel what she thought of the film.
“I loved how much we kissed,” Helgeland recalled Rachel telling him. “And then she got emotional,” he continued. “It was the only thing she ever said to me about the finished film. And it hit me: Her take-away from the whole thing was that she got to see her husband one more time.”
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