Jackie Robinson says to Branch Rickey, “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back”? Rickey returns, “No. I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”

Before Martin Luther King Jr., there was Jackie Robinson. By being the first Black player to play in the Major Leagues and doing so without conflict, he was leading peaceful protests one game at a time, inspiring a nation, allowing an entire race of people to see what could be done, and giving them the courage to follow his lead.

April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day in the United States. And this April 15th marks the 75th anniversary of the day that Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in a Major League Baseball game. When in 1947, he took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Though baseball was not the first sport to integrate (football did it one year earlier), Jackie’s ability to follow through on his promise to not “fight back” paved the way for countless athletes of African American descent to follow.

At smartdept., we take the time to recognize and celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. The first step in creating a culture that promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion involves education. Through conversation, we can begin to understand what is essential to an individual and an organization and develop strategies around solutions. As I reflect on past Jackie Robinson Days, I’m reminded of the time my oldest daughter excitedly came home from second grade to share with me that her class was studying a chapter on Negro League Baseball. Knowing she was named after Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux and that her dad was a baseball nut, Maddy knew I would be excited. She didn’t know that I have an extensive collection of Negro League memorabilia, including cards, jerseys, posters, autographs, videos, and more. And I love to share.

Like any good salesperson would do, I identified my target, got the contact information for Second Grade Teacher, Mrs. Marsh, and made my pitch (pun intended) to come to share my knowledge and treasures with her second-grade classroom. Okay, I admit it’s not a tough sell! Pretty much, anyone who calls any grade-school teacher and offers to fill 30 minutes of class time (so they don’t have to) will be welcomed with open arms. She may have offered to come to the house and drive me to the school to make sure I showed up. All kidding aside, it was an honor to have the opportunity to go to each of my four daughters’ second-grade classrooms to talk about Negro League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, and what he had to endure to leave his legacy. It was a privilege and a time in my life that I will always look back on fondly.

Join us in the celebration by dawning a number 42 jersey on Friday, April 15th. Or any other day. And learn more about Jackie’s impact on our game here. Then share it!


By Eric Pairitz, smartdept. Principal