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Lincoln, Ruffin, Robinson, Walker, Burke, Rocker and Bragan(6 posts)

Lincoln, Ruffin, Robinson, Walker, Burke, Rocker and BraganMe Dot Org
May 27, 2002 10:32 AM
No, it's not a law firm.

Apropos of the Piazza discussion, I was thinking about sacrifice and change on Memorial Day. Thinking about battles that are fought on battlefields and baseball fields, and battles that are fought in our hearts and minds.

Everyone knows Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson, but as to the others? Civil War Historians will know Edmund Ruffin. A lot of baseball fans know John Rocker. Fewer fans might remember Dixie Walker, Glenn Burke or Bobby Bragan.

Edmund Ruffin was a Southerner who gave the order to fire the first volley at Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Ruffin committed suicide. The last paragraph of his suicide note reads:

"...And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my latest breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to yankee rule--to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race."

Dixie Walker was a Brooklyn Dodger who brought a petition signed by many of his team mates to the Dodger organization, asking that Jackie Robinson be left off the roster. According to Robinson biographer Maury Allen: "They believed believed that taking a shower in the same large shower room with a black ballplayer would infect and contaminate them."

John Rocker, then a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, contemplated taking the subway to a game in New York in 1999. He told an interviewer: "Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing." Neither was Mr. Rocker particularly keen on the melting pot: The biggest thing I don't like about New York is the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anyone speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"

Fewer people will remember the name of Glenn Burke, who played center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is widely attributed to having given the first "high five" hand slap to Dusty Baker, who currently manages of the San Francisco Giants.

Thanks to Jackie Robinson, Mr. Burke's color was never an issue. His sexual orientation would have been. Although he was not particularly reticent about his lifestyle while playing ball, Glenn Burke officially came out of the closet two years after his retirement from baseball.

Retirement was not kind to Glenn Burke. He did time in prison, lived on the streets, and died of AIDS in 1995.

And finally we come to Bobby Bragan, a Dodger who signed Dixie Walker's petition against Robinson. Bragan went to the funeral of Branch Rickey, the man responsible for bringing Robinson to the Major Leagues. "...I sat next to Jackie. We shook hands warmly. ... It was a new time. I changed. Jackie changed. The world changed."
re: Lincoln, Ruffin, Robinson, Walker, Burke, Rocker and Braganmickey-mac
May 27, 2002 11:11 AM
I enjoyed reading that; it was well-written and to the point. Thanks for sharing it.
Wow! nmOutWest
May 27, 2002 7:28 PM
re: Lincoln, Ruffin, Robinson, Walker, Burke, Rocker and Bragandsc
May 27, 2002 10:30 PM
Thank you for the history lesson - most pertinent on a day like to day.

And as a big baseball fan (particularly old-time), I was surprised to find out that I didn't know the complete Jackie Robinson story.

Well, you learn something new every day. Thank you for sharing with us.

and the point is?ColnagoFE
May 30, 2002 9:25 AM
that people don't remember bigots? i dont see what this article is getting at. should we remember these people?
AdaptabilityMe Dot Org
May 30, 2002 4:12 PM
People like Ruffin and Rocker lose because of their opinions. Whether they commit suicide, or just live their lives inside the shell of their own prejudice, their inability to change narrows their lives.

People like Bobby Bragan are enriched by change. He grew up in a world of prejudice and segregation, but chose not to die when the world changed.

That is the spiritual side of evolution.