Archive for April, 2007

Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson

April 17, 2007

Sunday was cool.
Major League baseball celebrated the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, crossing over the color barrier and paving the way for generations of black baseball players, with “Jackie Robinson Day.”
Scores of modern players — including five entire teams — put on Robinson’s No. 42, a number that was retired league-wide 10 years ago.
The Dodgers and Padres had the national spotlight on Sunday night, and honestly, the game itself was far less important than the occasion.
I enjoyed the ESPN broadcast with Rachel Robinson, the classy, elegant widow of the man she still lovingly calls “Jack.”
Mrs. Robinson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Don Newcombe and Dave Winfield spent time on the broadcast — carried as always by Jon Miller and Joe Morgan — spinning yarns about the legendary ballplayer who stood in batter’s boxes and infields, listening to the taunts of white fans that didn’t want him around.
Baseball was integrated in 1947 when Robinson, and later that year, Larry Doby had the courage to step out there, take the abuse and just play ball.
To be sure, the national pastime went kicking and screaming into that brave new world. Players threatened to strike, umpires looked the other way when harsh words — or harder spikes — were directed at Robinson and Doby and some owners chose not to integrate their teams until much later.
As painful as it was, it happened seven years before Brown vs. Board, 12 months before the U.S. Army stopped segregation and 16 years before Dr. Martin Luther King shared his dream with the world.
So, what would have happened if Robinson hadn’t kept his cool?
What would have happened if he would have hurled a bat or ball at a heckler? Or if he would have hit .156, like Doby, instead of .297 60 years ago?
It might have served as ammunition for those looking to keep black players out of the game.
Where would we be?
Would the Civil Rights movement have begun when it did?
How would our world look?
Thankfully, we’ll never know.
For that reason, Jackie Robinson’s contributions to baseball deserve all the honor and glory Major League Baseball can give them.
Fans should stand and cheer, as they did Sunday, the memory of a great ballplayer.
But Americans should remember him on a deeper level as a man who, by simply playing a game, changed the course of our nation’s history.

Jennings leaving Southern Vance

April 7, 2007

From Saturday’s Dispatch

After making a run to the State 2AA Championship Game last season, Southern Vance football fans were left wondering what Coach David Jennings and his 2007 Raiders would do for an encore.

The answer is nothing. At least not together.

Jennings is leaving Southern after four seasons to become the new head football coach at Granville Central, a new school in Granville County set to open this fall.

He leaves as the winningest coach in Raider history with a 41-14 overall record.

“It’s a new challenge,” Jennings said in a phone interview Friday. “It’s an opportunity to build something from scratch. I really just want to see if I can do it.”

Jennings will also teach English and coach the men and women’s track teams.

For the first season at least, the new school will have just a JV program for football. Granville Central will play some varsity sports in 2007, with hopes of joining the Northern Carolina Conference – along with Southern – in the fall of 2008.

There was no word Friday as to Jennings’ potential successor, though the former coach said that he doesn’t plan on bringing any members of his former Raider staff with him into Granville County.

“I heard about the job posting and I went over there to see what was up with it,” Jennings said. “For me, it’s more about the journey from being a 4-7 or a 3-8 team to being a good program. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and this was a chance for me that was pretty close by.”

According to Jennings, there were no negotiations to keep him in Vance County.

“There wasn’t any of that,” he said. “My mind’s made up. I think that anytime a team loses its coach, it’s going to be a little bit of a setback. But with the players and the staff they have in place, they shouldn’t miss a beat without me.”

The former coach wouldn’t speculate as to who might replace him on the Raider sidelines.

“I have no idea what they’re going to do,” Jennings said. “At this point, it’s none of my business.”

He also added that he had a chance to tell most of his players about his decision.

“I’ve told quite a few of them,” Jennings said. “For the most part, they took it pretty well. I think they understand that it’s a good opportunity for me. The kids in Vance County are pretty resilient.

“I’m really going to miss Jamere (Pugh). Not just as a football player, but as a person. I’ve really enjoyed watching his maturation process.”

Jennings also made it clear that there wasn’t any ill will on his part.

“I appreciate the opportunity I had in Vance County,” he said. “Hopefully, I can continue to reminisce about the good times I had there. I’m going to miss the coaches and players. I had a lot of good relationships there. It’s just one of those things where it’s time to move on.

“There are no hard feelings. It’s just time for me to move on.”