Sometimes the players’ plaques at the National Baseball Hall of Fame get changed, usually to correct factual errors. But in Jackie Robinson’s case, the Hall decided to update his plaque to recognize the late Dodger’s achievements in breaking baseball’s color barrier.
In a ceremony held in Cooperstown, NY, on Wednesday, Robinson’s wife Rachel & daughter Sharon were on hand for the unveiling of Jackie’s new plaque, which now included his contributions to giving minorities a chance to play Major League Baseball.
The previous plaque read:
Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Brooklyn NL, 1947 to 1956
Leading N.L. batter in 1949. Holds fielding mark for second basemen playing in 150 or more games with .992. Led N.L. in stolen bases in 1947 and 1949. Most Valuable Player in 1949. Lifetime batting average .311. Joint record holder for most double plays by second baseman, 137 in 1951. Led second basemen in double plays 1949-50-51-52.
But the new & improved version is much more descriptive:
Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Brooklyn, N.L., 1947-1956
A player of extraordinary ability renowned for his electrifying style of play. Over 10 seasons hit .311, scored more than 100 runs six times, named to six All-Star teams and led Brooklyn to six pennants and its only World Series title, in 1955. The 1947 Rookie of the Year and the 1949 N.L. MVP when he hit a league-best .342 with 37 steals. Led second basemen in double plays four times and stole home 19 times. Displayed tremendous courage and poise in 1947 when he integrated the modern major leagues in the face of intense adversity.
That’ll certainly keep visitors inside the Hall for a least a few minutes more.
When Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, Jackie insisted that his plaque only mention his play on the field, and nothing about social impacts. As Hall of Fame chairman (chairwoman?) Jane Forbes Clark explained:
“Jackie asked the writers to base his career on performance alone. He told them that when considering his candidacy for the Hall of Fame they should only consider his playing ability, what his impact was on the playing field, and please not consider anything but that. When his plaque was written in 1962, it reflected his wishes. It only recounted his magnificent career.”
However, Clark & the rest of the Hall realized that much more needed to be said about Robinson than just statistics:
“But, as we all know, there is no one person more central or more important in the history of baseball for his pioneering ways. Today, his impact on our game is not fully defined if it did. We did not mention his extreme courage in crossing baseball’s color line.”
And who was behind the idea of updating Jackie’s plaque? None other than ESPN analyst Joe Morgan. Say what you will about Joe’s broadcasting abilities (and many folks have), but it’s hard to boo Morgan for making this kind of suggestion.