Bill Plaschke for the LA Times writes: On this date 60 years ago, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play in a major league game. But there are better places to recognize his legacy than at big league parks. Plaschke duly reports that several teams are having all their players wear Robinson's number 42 in today's games, to celebrate the anniversary of his breaking baseball's color barrier. But he also observes Jackie Robinson, it turns out, did little to change the African American influence on baseball. Today it is a Caucasian and Latino pastime, both on the field and in the stands. Only 8.3% of the players on opening-day rosters were African American, a huge drop from the 27% total in the mid-1970s. There are only two African American managers. There is only one African American general manager. In the stands, witnesses don't need a Harris Poll to know that only 7% of African American adults say that baseball is their favorite sport. With higher salaries available quicker, basketball and football have long since surpassed baseball as the sport of choice for the top inner-city athlete. With few African Americans on the field or in the dugout, the game has lost its appeal to the inner-city fan. "When it comes to people following in his footsteps on the baseball field, Jack's impact seems to have been forgotten," said Don Newcombe, Robinson's last living African American teammate. However, Plaschke points to the world outside of baseball, where Robinson's influence has continued to be significant. He calls attention to Jackie Robinson Sports Stadium, dedicated by Mayor Tom Bradley in 1973, and says, "Spend five minutes here and realize that perhaps none represent his legacy better.""Jackie Robinson wasn't a baseball thing, it was a humanity thing," says David Garrison, the coach of the L.A. Jets youth track team that runs around him. "Jackie Robinson taught this country the idea of, 'You're no different than me.' " Walking across this weed-choked field at sunset, it is obvious that Robinson integrated far more than a baseball diamond. He integrated a soul. He took his country's common language — sports — and made it accessible for all. He didn't just break baseball's color barrier, he began the deconstruction of all athletic barriers. Where sports was once one of the worst parts of a segregated society, today it is the most color-blind aspect of that society. (…) It was never about a baseball field. It was about all fields, including one in the middle of Los Angeles where the anniversary of his first game is celebrated every day, in different languages, in different colors, under a single inspiration that can be found etched onto Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn tombstone. "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
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