Results tagged ‘ Branch Rickey ’

A Piece of Living History

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There are few living legends in the game whose presence looms as large as Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. The now 85-year-old has been the voice of the Dodgers for 64 years, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. He is a walking encyclopedia of baseball and cultural knowledge and always makes for a tremendously entertaining interview.

Scully sat down with Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes prior to Tuesday night’s game in Los Angeles. He told stories of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, his start in broadcasting in Washington D.C., and discussed Bryce Harper’s collision Monday night.

“The only good thing about it is it knocked his beard off,” Scully mused, as Harper had to shave in order to receive his stitches.

Scully went to the clubhouse before the game Tuesday to see Harper, who seemed caught off guard to see him in Davey Johnson’s office. As Harper shook Scully’s and offered a customary pleasantry, Scully retorted with, “Well, how are you young man?” in reference to the play the night before. The two went on to chat for several minutes as Johnson made his away around the clubhouse.

“He’s such a fine young man and an outstanding player,” said Scully of Harper. “It’s none of my business, but I hope he stays clean shaven.”

Listen to the full interview below. The Nationals wrap their three-game set in Los Angeles tonight.

Remembering Jackie

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After seeing the film “42,” Commissioner Bud Selig felt that it was very important for everyone, especially young people, to see the movie. So over the past few weeks, Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs teamed up to offer high school students a private screening and panel discussion with members of the baseball community about the impact of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on American history.

Last Friday, nearly 400 D.C. public high school students were treated to a special showing, followed by an open question and answer session with Nationals broadcaster Dave Jageler, EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, center fielder Denard Span, first base coach Tony Tarasco and Kendra Gaither from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Given the ability to ask nearly anything and everything, the students asked questions about the challenges of being a professional athlete, the impact of Jackie Robinson, and battling racial prejudice, both on and off the field.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

In one of the best questions of the day, Rizzo was asked if he thought he could have made a move as bold as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s in signing Robinson as the first African American player in the Major League Baseball.

“It’s difficult to put yourself in his shoes,” Rizzo admitted. “Not only was that a baseball decision, it was a social decision that sent ripples throughout the world.”

All the panel participants stressed the importance of remembering just how big of a story Robinson’s ascent to the Major Leagues was, and how his influence extended far beyond the playing field. After all, he made his debut in 1947, more than 16 full years prior to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” often thought of as the centerpiece of the American Civil Rights Movement.

“With the passage of time, there’s an opportunity for amnesia,” explained Gaither, whose work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation is an ongoing effort to fight such an occurrence. “A movie like this reminds us of what life was really like back then.”

For his part, Span expressed not only gratitude for the doors the previous generations opened that  allowed him to do what he does, but also pride in the opportunity to so publicly  celebrate Robinson’s legacy every April 15.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

“It’s a day that I look forward to every year,” he said of MLB’s league-wide day of recognition, on which all players wear the number 42. “We get a chance to honor a special individual.”

When asked if they thought they would have had the bravery to do what Robinson did, Span and Tarasco had slightly different takes. While the current player expressed hope that he could have done the same, Tarasco was more forthcoming.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Robinson’s success signified something greater to Tarasco. His biggest takeaway from the film was that the spirit of the team won out over individual prejudice, a sentiment that will never be forgotten and will never go out of style.

“It’s not about who’s right, it’s about what’s right.”

A Story About Dave and Jack

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Last Friday, Nationals radio broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler attended an event at the Library of Congress which featured a great number of baseball artifacts on display. Many of the items were donated by Bob Wolff, the legendary Washington broadcaster who was part of the class inducted into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame prior to Sunday’s game on the field at Nationals Park.

“There were a lot of articles related to Jackie Robinson, including a handwritten letter from Robinson to Branch Rickey,” explained Jageler of the collection.

Among the pieces of history was a single, typewritten sheet written by one legendary baseball man about another one who, unbeknownst to either at the time, would ascend to legendary status himself.

The page was a scouting report written by a then-adviser for the St. Louis Cardinals about a young, Minor League second baseman. It read as follows:

 

September 14 & 15, 1964

Rochester, N.Y.

Rochester vs. Jacksonville

JOHNSON, DAVE            (Rochester Infielder)

            Tall, slim right hander now playing second base.            21 years old.            First year player.            Good looking fielder.            Good batting form.            A major league possibility.             Try to include him in any possible deal with Baltimore.

BRANCH RICKEY

Yes, that’s the same Branch Rickey, the one depicted by Harrison Ford in the recently released “42” about the life of Jackie Robinson, sharing his thoughts on the Nationals very own Davey Johnson.

Johnson, at age 21 in his first professional season, swatted 19 home runs while compiling a .264/.345/.458 line that season, also helping turn 62 double plays as a second baseman. Three years later, he would begin the 13-year Major League career that included four All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and a pair of World Championships.

“I knew Davey would be very flattered to know that Branch Rickey thought he was a tradable commodity,” said Jageler, who shared the story with Washington’s manager last weekend.

Needless to say, Rickey had a good eye for young talent.

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