Black History Month 2016 – Jackie Robinson

Update: I talked about reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin last week. Well, I got it from the library and started reading it last Thursday night. In the introduction, they talk about the impact of Stowe’s book on society. Novels were written at that time to bring readers into current events through a relatable medium, if people were able to get them and read them. Along with gossip, these books were big topics of discussion when women got together with each other to do domestic things like quilting and cooking. I think novels and movies are written and produced for some of the same reasons now. It can be an easier way to understand things that happen, as long as the author writes a good story about it.

Baseball is a big sport in our house. So much so, we give up most of our summer of going to the cabin to be involved in it. Both of the boys play on high school teams in the spring and travelling teams in the summer. As we were getting them signed up this year, I saw a post about Jackie Robinson on Facebook. And, that’s where the inspiration for this week’s blog came from, continuing on the theme of Black History Month.

Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He played football, basketball, baseball and track in high school and college. He had to drop out of college due to financial hardship, but started to play football outside of college. His football career was cut short when the US entered World War II. He served as a second lieutenant in the US Army, but he never saw combat. During boot camp in 1944 he was arrested and court martialed after refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of the bus. His reputation, help from the NAACP, and black newspapers brought what happened to light and he was acquitted of the charges and given an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objections in this case would be a precursor to how he would handle his experience in Major League Baseball.

After his discharge from the Army, Jackie started playing professional baseball. Due to segregation, the blacks played on different teams than the whites did. Robinson started out playing in the negro leagues until Branch Rickey gave him the chance to play for the Montreal Royals, the farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After about a year on the farm club, he was moved up to play for the majors on April 15, 1947 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Even though Jackie was a good baseball player, he was still given a hard time because he was black. Not only by players and fans of the other teams, but from some of his own team mates. Rickey and Joe Durocher, the Dodger’s manager, wouldn’t tolerate that kind of treatment of Robinson on their team. They coached Robinson to be strong and not fight all of the hate people were showing him because of his color. His ability to do this, showed an inner strength that Robinson had about himself and the fact that he knew he was good enough to be there, regardless of what other people had to say.

The movie 42 gave us a look of what it was like for Robinson to break the color line and become the first black baseball player to play in the majors. We took Max and Mitch to see 42 in the theater when the movie originally came out. As we walked out of the theater afterwords, both of the boys commented how sad it was that everyone treated Robinson and other black players differently just because they were colored.

Other players like Curt Roberts, Ernie Banks and Willie Mays followed in his foot steps and continued to break down the color line in baseball. Curt Roberts was the first to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Branch Rickey signed him up for the team just like he did for Robinson. Rickey liked his calm personality and hoped that it would help him deal with the heckling that he would encounter. Roberts only made it for one year, as his batting average fell, he was cut the next year.

Ernie Banks said,

“I tried to get along with people who did not normally associate with blacks. I let them know there’s good and bad in every ethnic group.”

Robinson was also the first black player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962. Banks was inducted in 2011 while Mays was inducted in 1979. When they asked Robinson what he would like his legacy to be, he replied,

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” – Robinson on his legacy.

Through the research that I have done this month into the lives of these black Americans, I have seen some very disturbing trends in how people in our country were treated. My Mom always said that we shouldn’t be mean to people because they are different from us. Didn’t we all hear that when we were younger? If we did, then why are we continuing to do it?

Robinson and other black baseball players broke the color line and played a game that was seen as all white before. Blacks and other races have had to break a color line to get to do many things that other people are able to do here in America. I think over time people have become more accepted, but they are still not truly respected by all.

Z is for Zero

Here’s the last letter of the A to Z blogging challenge for 2015. I started with an airplane and wound up with a word that is a symbol of no quantity and is also an important airplane that flew during World War II.

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Sumerians were the first people to develop a counting system. They used spaces to show the absence of a number as early as four thousand years ago. The first recorded use of a zero like symbol dates back to around the third century B.C. in ancient Babylon.

The spaces made it kind of hard to really know what the number was supposed to be. The zero became the placeholder to replace those spaces. It would become the way to tell the number 10 from the number 100.

Then zero became a concept meaning the absence of any quantity. Zero is a numerical digit that plays a central role in mathematics. It functions as a place holder between the negative and positive numbers on a number line and allows us to perform complicated calculus equations. It’s also an essential part of the binary  code for computers.

Not only does zero play a key role in mathematics, it is also a nickname for an aircraft that was used in World War II. It was a long-range fighter operated by the Japanese Navy from 1940-1945. Named the zero fighter because it entered service for the Imperial Navy in the Imperial year 2600 (1940) and they named it after the last digit of that year. Dr. Jiro Horikoshi was the chief designer of this and many other Japanese fighters.

It was considered one of the most capable carrier based fighters in the world. As a dog fighter in battle, it achieved a legendary kill ratio of 12:1. The Japanese Naval pilots were seen as the best and most experienced naval aviators in the world in late 1941, at the time when Pearl Harbor took place.

There were some inherent flaws in the design of the Zero, but some of those weaknesses were overcome by the ability of the pilots flying them. The aircraft was made very lightweight, because the Japanese industry could only build 800 horsepower engines. It made the plane very maneuverable and easy to fly. It was made for low altitude flying, but above 15000 feet, the controls were less responsive. Because it was so lightweight, it couldn’t carry very heavy ammunition nor could it take very many enemy hits. It also saw having armor plating, parachutes, and self sealing gas tanks as being non-essential extra weight, so the airplane wasn’t equipped with them.

I realize this is a Japanese aircraft and that they were on the other side in the war, but it is very interesting how and why they were made so lightweight and maneuverable. That along with the abilities of the pilots who flew them made these airplanes a worthy opponent of the Allied forces.

So, the zero played both an important role in mathematics and in World War II. The fact that the word zero was the name for a placeholder and what an airplane was nicknamed shows what a contrast a double meaning of one word can have.