CHICAGO | There was probably no color-blind corner of the United States in 1947, the year Jackie Robinson became baseball’s first African-American player in modern times.
But if there was any section of the country that came the closest, it might have been Jerry Reinsdorf’s native Brooklyn, where Robinson played for the Dodgers in Ebbets Field.
“The question was, was he going to (be good enough to) play?,” recalled White Sox chairman Reinsdorf at a U.S. Cellular Field symposium on the 67th anniversary of Robinson’s debut.
“In retrospect — that’s what history’s all about — it was huge. But in Brooklyn, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Reinsdorf had his own personal story of how Robinson’s difference from all other players did not strike him as a young Dodgers fan.
“Brooklyn was the perfect place for Jackie Robinson to come up,” he said. “Race wasn’t an issue. My friends were all types of people. At 11 years old, it never dawned on me at the time.
“It first hit me when later in the year when I said to my friend Lester Davis, who was black, ‘Who was your favorite player?’ He looked at me like I was an idiot: ‘Well, Jackie Robinson, of course.’
"That’s when it first hit me that Jackie was the only (player of color).”
The replay eyes have it: Paul Konerko’s recollections of countless close plays at first base are why he endorses the video replay system.
“There’s a lot of times I swear we got somebody,” said the Sox captain. “But I looked at the replay, and I was wrong. A lot of times as a first baseman you can’t feel a guy’s foot hit the base. So really although you’re the one making the play, because your eyes are focused out to the field, you actually have the worst view of it.”
In Konerko’s view, the new replays only cover part of the most disputed area of the diamond.
“By the sheer numbers of it, (the bang-bang play at first is) going to be the most reviewed one,” he said. “Unfortunately, the ‘neighborhood’ play at second base ... the guy has to be touching the base with the ball, which is the rule and obviously guys have abused that over the years, that’s not included in reviews. That’d probably be No. 2.
“I think (that play is excluded) for a good reason. If they changed that one with review, they might have to take into account the take-out slide at second, and how that echoes. That’s probably the reason they left it out of there.
“There are so many opportunities to miss them (at first and second). The umpires aren’t perfect. They’re human. They’re going to make mistakes. Those are the ones that will happen so much they’re bound to be mistakes.”
Ventura knows where Leury had to go: Sox manager Robin Ventura could sympathize with the difficult job he gave utility player Leury Garcia as an emergency — and losing — pitcher in the 14th inning against the Boston Red Sox around the stroke of midnight going into Thursday.
Then-third baseman/first baseman Ventura was pressed into service by Dodgers manager Jim Tracy against the Angels on June 25, 2004 in Dodger Stadium. Ventura allowed three fly-ball outs and gave up a single to Darin Erstad in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 13-0 loss.
Ventura said there was no shortage of hands among his Sox position players when pitching volunteers were sought for the Red Sox game.