Brooklyn Boro

Jackie Robinson’s widow says baseball lags on diversity

January 20, 2016 By Lynn Elber Associated Press
Rachel Robinson, left, and filmmaker Ken Burns participate in the "Jackie Robinson" panel at the PBS Winter TCA on Monday in Pasadena, Calif. Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
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Jackie Robinson’s widow said Major League Baseball has yet to fully honor her husband’s legacy.

The ballplayer, who broke the sport’s color barrier when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, died in 1972 at age 53.

“There is a lot more that needs to be done and that can be done in terms of the hiring, the promotion” of minorities in the sport, Rachel Robinson said Monday.

Robinson took part in a Q&A session with TV critics about “Jackie Robinson,” a two-part PBS documentary airing in April.

Holding Jackie Robinson Day at ballparks and handing out T-shirts to honor his brave integration of baseball isn’t enough, she said.

“We’re talking about very few [black] coaches, very few managers … so there’s room for real progress, where people can come into the sport and feel they’re going to be respected and given opportunities,” Robinson said.

Filmmaker Ken Burns (“Brooklyn Bridge,” “The Civil War,” ”Baseball”) recalled that Jackie Robinson, in his final public appearance, said he would be even more proud if he glanced over toward third base and saw an African-American coach.

Burns screened the documentary last November for Robinson, 93, who recalled her nervousness before seeing it.

“But right from the beginning, I could see that Ken tried to understand him and his place in history” and gathered the evidence to support his perspective, she said. She pronounced herself “very pleased” with the project.

Robinson was asked to describe her emotional response to the film, which tells of her husband’s achievements and their family life.

“I had to hide my tears,” she said. With Jackie Robinson gone, people look to her to confirm accounts of what he did, how he felt and how the couple confronted discrimination.

“It’s a great responsibility to speak for someone else who cannot be there to speak for themselves,” she said.

Not all of their personal history is for public consumption: Robinson wrote to his wife faithfully whenever he was away and those letters remain private, she said.

“Jackie Robinson” airs on PBS stations on April 11-12, deliberately scheduled to debut just after the start of the baseball season and days before Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, Burns said.


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