Thorn: Ali, Jackie, and the Babe

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on June 13, 2016:

Witnessing the past week’s outpouring of grief and tribute for the departed champ, Muhammad Ali, puts me in mind of — surprise, surprise — baseball.

Ali was a hero larger than life, a legend in his own time, and not only in areas of race and religion. He was True North, a lodestone for a generation wishing to free itself from a troubling past and an uncertain future. We know today, if we did not know it before, how our nation and our world felt about a man who rose from the streets of a racially divided city to become a role model of achievement, principle, and concern for others.

I once said about Jackie Robinson:

For me, baseball’s finest moment is the day Jackie Robinson set foot on a major league field for the first time. . . I’m most proud to be an American, most proud to be a baseball fan when baseball has led America rather than followed it. It has done so several times, but this is the most transforming incident.

Jackie Robinson is my great hero among baseball heroes and he’s my great hero as an American. He is an individual who shaped the crowd.

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Originally published: June 13, 2016. Last Updated: June 13, 2016.