Not long ago, my local planetarium was having an event. Buzz Aldrin was rumored to be one of the speakers. That was pretty neat, I thought to myself. It’s not every day you can hear from, and possibly meet, a man who once walked on the moon.
He walked on the moon, right?
I couldn’t remember. I was pretty sure. But, not positive. So, I asked someone else. They couldn’t be sure. I asked another half-dozen people. None of them were sure. Of course, the answer is that he did, in fact, walk on the moon. He was the second person to walk there. About an hour after the first guy.
If I asked anyone if Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, would anybody be unsure? What does that say about people? The first guy gets all the accolades. Aldrin missed out…by hours.
Which is why today, I think of Larry Doby. Today is Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball. Every player in uniform will wear his number “42.” A number which, otherwise, would be retired by every team. A movie just came out chronicling Robinson’s career. He has had honor after honor bestowed upon him (and rightly so) because he broke the color barrier. He was the first.
Larry Doby was the second. He joined the Indians in July of 1947. Three months later. That’s it. Because he was three months after Robinson, I bet lots of people haven’t even heard of him. And, that’s too bad.
Again, I don’t mean to take anything away from Robinson. He was the one who did it first. If his “experiment” went terribly wrong, maybe Doby doesn’t get that chance. Plus, I bet Robinson would tell me that those were an awfully long three months. Maybe Robinson made it just a bit easier for Doby when his turn came.
But, do you think Doby wonders what might have been if he had signed just a little earlier? I bet Aldrin wonders what would have happened if his seat was on the other side of the cockpit.
So, Happy Jackie Robinson Day! Let’s all celebrate one of the most important days of the 20th century. Let’s remember Jackie Robinson, and all he did.
But, let’s also remember Larry Doby, and everyone who came after the two of them.
And, while we’re at it, let’s remember that Buzz Aldrin once walked on the moon.