The Pinetar Rag

April 17, 2011

Jackie Robinson Statue Tour of Philadelphia

After 3 hours of sleep, it was up at 3am and driving down from NY with the Jackie Robinson statue to do the first of many interviews and appearances at Fox. Ably assisted by Kenny Johnson and Deb Rinaldi of the Phillies, we hit our marks out in front of Fox at 7:20am. A few teaser shots and then a short interview with Fox 29’s John Anderson. Click here to see the interview in a new window

Then it was immediately over to CBS3 for another interview with Uke Washington and Kenny and Deb of the Phillies. Click here to see the interview in a new window

Here’s a small clip my brother took from a little way away during the Uke Washington interview:

Then it was on to a community Jackie Robinson Event at the Philadelphia Stars Memorial at Belmont and Parkside Aves, in Philadelphia. That crossroads was the location of the Philadelphia Stars ballpark. The Stars were Philly’s entry in the old Negro League. Later this day, my family would get to meet two of the last surviving members of that franchise.

There were many groups attending and special promotions from the Phillies. The children were having a ball and posed for this photo.

There were several groups and this particular group did a dance number before posing.

There were many nice monuments marking the site and those who were a part of it. I really enjoyed meeting regular folks from this community and just listening to the older fellows tell me how much Jackie Robinson and Monte Irvin and Larry Doby meant to them growing up. You know, when you do an event like this, those dusty pages in a history book become real live anecdotes and recollections and it was amazing to take it all in. It was also very flattering to hear the very sincere compliments for the statue. When you spend that long covered with itchy sawdust, it is very gratifying to hear these things and see the sparkle in their eyes, as opposed to words on a page.

Here we are finally at The Bank. It’s early; well before batting practice and my amazing handlers with the Phillies (Kenny Johnson & Deb Rinaldi) lined up a couple of more interviews. The first was with John Mayberry, the man who’s hit won the exciting Phils opener. I don’t have any photos of that interview but it went very well and it was nice to see and hear John’s reaction to the statue. It was probably the first time I had spoken to someone who was directly in line with Robinson’s courageous work, so it was extra special for me.

After that piece, we did a short interview with Comcast out in dead center field. What a beautiful backdrop! I have been to 40 different major league ballparks in my lifetime and Citizens’ Bank Park is my favorite building. Everything about it just feels right.

All night it was the same thing: folks lined up in a semi circle around it, taking photos and asking questions. It never gets old. I met some really tremendous people and heard just an amazing array of stories and anecdotes about Robinson, Civil Rights, baseball, art and on and on. This part of it is easy and never feels like work.

By this point in the day, I’m feeling my 3 hours of sleep and nonstop itinerary pretty acutely, however, a great subplot was that my 3.5 year old son, Thomas, came to the game and it was his first time in a big league ballpark! What a way to break in! His uncle Bob, shown below, was holding him up to see the Phillies take batting practice and he caught a BP homer left handed while holding Thomas in his right hand! So on his first game day, Thomas gets a ball!

Later on this evening, Thomas got the ball signed by the last two remaining Phildelphia Stars and for that I am very grateful and want to thank both the Stars and again, my Phillies guardian angel, Kenny Johnson. Kenny is just a pro’s pro and he hit his marks (and kept me hitting mine) all day long with aplomb. He put on a clinic. It’s a pleasure to watch someone do something that they are so good at, whether it be art, or sports, or even business.

Below is Thomas showing off his baseball. How great is that?

Here’s the family; my wife Carol and Thomas (Jack Benny is too little and is spending the day with his grandparents). I’m looking a bit tired by this point and perhaps a bit cold as the temp dropped towards gametime, but on April 15th in the East, you are going to have that. I was just thanking God all day that there was no rain as that was the one thing that would have given us a problem.

Since my statues are 100% solid wood, they will not hold up to weather, so it was a concern. All around baseball, there are many life size statues that honor players but they are all bronze. Bronze is great for holding up to weather and can be outdoors permanently. But Bronze is one color. The great thing about the wooden statues is that I can show color and isn’t baseball a colorful thing anyway? Add to that the color component of the Robinson story and it makes a nice fit. There are currently no color statues such as this permanently residing in any major league ballpark. Wouldn’t it be nice (and somehow fitting) for this statue to be the first?

After a little breather, I did two more spots thanks to Deb Rinaldi and Kenny Johnson. The first was a spot right behind the statue that went very well. It was what they call a “talkback”, which means, I wore an earpiece and had to listen for a cue from an unseen host. It was hard to hear with the crowds and I was worried that I would miss the cue or not be able to make out what the host was asking me, but it turned out to be the best one all day just about. I think I was too tired to be nervous! I’ll tell you, I have new respect for anyone who makes their living with a mike and a camera. They make it look easy–it isn’t.

Here is a link to that spot: Click here to see the NBC interview in a new window

Here’s what it looked like. I sure look rigid in this shot, but I felt pretty loose, all in all.

After that, I had to run halfway around the stadium and do a pregame radio spot and that was fun and went really well. By then I suppose, it didn’t seem so strange to be doing this stuff.

On the way back to the statue from the plate area, I heard my voice on the PA and quickly ran down the tunnel to the seating area, so that I could see the Phanavision screen. They were showing my 2 minute video which I had narrated. It was the strangest sensation to hear my voice blaring around Citizens Bank Park like that, but there it was. It was a day of things like that and one that I’ll never forget.

Here is a quick video of the end of it:

Click here to see the full 2 minute video in a new window

I mentioned that two of the old Philadelphia Stars had signed Thomas’ ball and here are their names on the statue by their old stomping grounds which we had visited earlier.

The gentlemen who signed were Mahlon Duckett and Harold Gould. I also got a chance to meet some of the Tuskegee Airmen and that was a big thrill. My father and just about all of my uncles were WWII vets. Men of that generation shaped me more than any other and I have read a great deal about that war and so it was just tremendous to shake the hand of men who flew Jugs and P-51’s against the Germans in those dark days.

Guys like that gave us a lot of freedom and I think it gets taken for granted sometimes, unfortunately. The Tuskegee Airmen, not only had to deal with bombs and bullets, but the institutionalized racism of the day: a double whammy. They are great men for having done all of that and children should know their story.

And again and again, all night, folks stopped by to talk, take photos and ask questions. It was great.

April 15th 2011, a day in which the Jackie Robinson statue went many places and met many nice folks, hopefully, making them happy and spreading awareness of what went on, not that long ago. The statue is tentatively slated to visit the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City later this Summer but as of right now, there are no details.

I want to thank the Philadelphia Phillies for all of their support. I have worked with various organizations and baseball clubs through the years, but I have never seen the professionalism and can-do spirit that I did these past few weeks while working with the Phillies. As I have said, much of that was through the hard work of Kenny Johnson and Deb Rinaldi, who made it easy to do all of these things without one single hitch. As I look back at the itinerary and see all the marks we hit from 7am to 10pm, I am amazed that it went so seamlessly and that is a testament to their diligence. I hope to work with them again in the future.

Here’s my takeaway shot for the day: the first time my little buddy is at a big league game. It was filled with memorable things. I have to wonder, however, that at 3 and a half, will he remember it years from now? I hope he does. I know I will.

Thanks for all the kind words and stories! Enjoy the game.

This was the basic scene all night:

1 Comment »

  1. Great summary of what I’m sure was a great and rewarding day. Must have been so nice seeing other people’s reactions to the statue.

    Comment by John Walker — April 18, 2011 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

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