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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Might be 42 reasons to dislike Tribe uniforms

If you are a baseball fan, I spose you watched last Sunday’s Indians game.

So did I — amid much agony and consternation.

But first, let us get one matter out of the way. Last week, I also wrote about baseball. I would like to go on record as saying this is the first time I have ever written about baseball two weeks in a row. I usually write about more important things, such as ... well, I can’t think of any right now, but I want you to know that I am not a sportswriter-in-training or — worst of all — becoming typecast.

I don’t want to be another Chester Morris, who made so many Boston Blackie movies that he had trouble finding other roles.

I have seen all of those Class B flicks, and they are hilarious because they are so bad. They are in black and white, shown on Turner Classic Movies, most of them made in the early 1940s.

I saw one a week ago where they hung a bad guy upside down out of the 14th story window of a building to get him to confess. Then they let him drop and he fell only one story, to the landing below.

I could watch those old B&W films all day, or at least until the lady of the house gets home from Dillard’s, Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Key Bank — you get the idea. She has a lot of errands to run. But I digress.

I slowly went nuts during the Indians game because of the uniforms both teams were wearing. Not just the Indians. Also the Kansas City Royals.

None of them had names on the back, and they all wore No. 42.

Let’s see if I have this right – the reason uniforms have numbers on the back is so people watching can tell who is doing what. The numbers help tell one player from another.

So MLB Baseball (that stands for Major League Baseball Baseball, striking a unique blow for redundancy) on the one hand seems to like names and numbers to tell players apart, and on the other hand eliminates the names and gives them all the same number to make it impossible to tell them apart.

Yes, that is correct. There were 50 players in the Indians-Royals game wearing No. 42.

Now, I know why they did this. I am not simple.

They did it to honor Jackie Robinson, the great second baseman who, as the sportswriters like to say, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

He was the first black player to play in the majors — only a couple of months before Larry Doby first played for the Indians.

I respect Robinson’s contributions to baseball. He was outstanding in every aspect of the game, and I mean every aspect. But can’t they find a better way to show respect to him than making everyone wear No. 42? That just creates confusion.

I never saw Robinson play in person, but I saw him play on televised games many times. There weren’t many base runners as talented as he was.

He was truly a five-tool player. And if you don’t know what the five tools are, you haven’t been paying attention.

I only wish the Dodgers had brought him up a couple of months later so Doby could have been the first black man to play in the majors. That is only hometown wishful thinking, I guess, but wouldn’t that have been great for Cleveland?

Paul Brown already had a lot of super-talented black players on the Browns (Marion Motley, Horace Gillom) without giving race a second thought. With Brown, it wasn’t about race, it was about ability to play the game.

When Doby first came up he was pretty raw, a work in progress. But he became a great player.

But as good as Robinson was, giving everyone his number only created confusion. As for the Indians, I have been jawing at them for years about those stupid home uniforms with no names on the back. Ask Bobby DiBiasio, the team vice president for public relations. Every time he gives a talk and asks for questions afterward and my hand shoots up, he knows what the question is going to be: When are you going to get rid of those stupid uniforms with no names on the back?

But here’s an idea: If MLB really wants to make it confusing when honoring a player, take it one step further.

During the game, stop showing those little boxes that have a player’s name with his batting average. And make the announcers quit using names when broadcasting the name.

They could refer to players by position, but no names.

I mean, if the baseball moguls don’t want us to know who the players are, wouldn’t that help?


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