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“Man, I’m under a lot of pressure.” Really??

To the casual fan flipping channels, Sunday in Major League Baseball must have appeared confusing. EVERY player on EVERY team was wearing the same jersey number: 42. This was the fifth year that MLB has celebrated April 15 as the day that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in what was then the most popular professional sport in America. It was 65 years ago this weekend that Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and changed the game. Over the years I’ve read a few great stories and even a superb book about Robinson and what he faced during that time. But last week I happened uponan eye-opening piece in USA Today that altered my thoughts on the level of risk that Robinson took on. The USA Today article was penned by Chris Lamb, author of a groundbreaking book on the desegregation of baseball. Robinson, Lamb wrote, was “arguably the most important civil rights figure, and the integration of baseball the most important civil rights story, in the years immediately after World War II.” Then he added this line: “Never before—and never since—has so much been riding on one athlete.” As much as I had read about the trials, tribulations and disgraceful behavior that Robinson faced, I had never seen it put like that. Never before and never since… Fortunately, Robinson’s play allowed him to continue to make statements on the field and off. And this week we celebrated that. I wondered how anyone could perform with THAT kind of pressure hanging over them. They say hitting a baseball racing toward you at 95 mph is one of the most difficult feats in sports. Imagine doing so with pressures much greater than a game! There are days I think I’m overwhelmed. I’m going to write the number “42” down the next time that feeling comes my way.

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