For No. 42: Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?
While most of us are off sweating our taxes today, there is at least one cause for celebration. Today is Jackie Robinson Day, celebrating the anniversary of Robinson's first taking a major-league baseball field with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. As the first African-American MLB player, Robinson blazed a trail that ended 80 years of segregation in the sport and paved the way for generations of gifted athletes.
Bob Sandberg via the Library of Congress
Since 2004, it's become an annual tradition to honor the man who in many ways most defined the true national pastime, embodying as he did both skill undeniable and the place of freedom and equality that America is supposed to represent in ballparks across the nation. This year, for instance, Historic Dodgertown will host an exhibition game, and each player at tonight's Astros-Royals game at Minute Maid Park will wear Robinson's jersey number, 42. That number has become symbolic of the movement towards equality in professional sports, and has been retired at every MLB park. So honor No. 42, here's a playlist of songs about the one and only Jackie Robinson.
Count Basie, "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?"
Any talk about Robinson in song starts with this tune, recorded back when No. 42 was still in his prime. Buddy Johnson wrote it, but Count Basie came along with this better version (in my opinion) in 1949. Regardless, it's a lighthearted tip of the chapeau to Robinson's prowess, something that is often lacking when he is discussed in pop culture. One of the reasons Robinson was able to do what he did was because he was so very good at baseball. That's what paved the way.
Jay-Z feat. Santigold, "Brooklyn Go Hard"
Now, Jay-Z may be getting a bit above himself by claiming to occupy the same strata as Robinson, but there's not denying "Brooklyn Go Hard" is a hell of good tune. It was at least good enough to be the theme song for the successful 2013 film 42 so I'll defer to the people who love Jackie Robinson enough to make a $40 million movie about him.
King Missile, "My Father"
Never let a chance to mention King Missile go by if you don't have to. In one of John S. Hall's best nonsensical poem-songs he talks about the accomplishments his father had before he died. One of them was being the first white man in the Negro Leagues, where black players were forced to play pro baseball until Robinson came along and the majors were soon desegregated. Hall's father was apparently traded for Robinson, but it's really just part of the utter insanity that was King Missile. Man, I miss this band.
List continues on the next page.