Like any other resident, I love New York and consider it the center of the world, but I never could get its hoity-toity attitude towards its sports legends.
Go to Detroit and they have two great statues of homegrown boxing legend Joe Louis.
Go to Chicago and there is a first-rate statue of Michael Jordan in midair, and there’s an Ernie Banks in front of Wrigley Field. Atlanta has honored Hank Aaron with a statue.
There’s a Babe Ruth statue, but it’s not here where the Sultan of Swat made baseball America’s pastime.
It’s in Baltimore, where he was born.
Ditto for Willie Mays, one of the city’s most beloved sports heroes. There’s a statue of him all right. Next time I’m in San Francisco, I plan on going to see it.
But in New York, a pigeon can barely find a sports legend’s statue on which to rest its weary wings.
Which brings me to Jackie Robinson, who I would argue was not only a great baseball player, but was right up there with Rosa Parks as a seminal figure in the early civil rights movement.
Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and had to endure years of taunts from other players and fans in silence while earning Most Valuable Player honors in a Hall of Fame career.
To be sure, there is a plaque on the corner of Montague and Court Streets commemorating the building where Jackie signed his contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but for many years there was no statue of him.
There is one statue of Jackie in front of the Brooklyn Cyclone Stadium in Coney Island and I covered its unveiling a few years ago. But when the drop cloth came off, the statue included former Brooklyn Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese with his arm around him.
Now I have no disrespect for Reese. He was a great friend to Jackie, but it didn’t seem right to me.
It would be like having a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Jewish people who supported (and died as well) for the civil right movement. No disrespect to these Jews, but Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history.
I feel the same way about Jackie Robinson. The man deserves his own statue here in Brooklyn.
And it should be at the entrance to the Barclays Arena near the Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue intersection.
While some may say Robinson was a baseball player and this is a basketball arena, I would argue it doesn’t matter.
People from all over the world will come to see NBA games in Brooklyn. They should learn what Jackie Robinson meant to the borough, the city and the country.
Brooklynites, too, should pass the statue and let their children see it and learn about Jackie Robinson.
I called officials from the Nets about the idea and didn’t hear back from them at press time. Perhaps some local politicians feel as I do and can pressure the “powers that be”.
It’s time to further honor Jackie Robinson!