MILWAUKEE -- Rachel Robinson said last year that she is so glad Mariano Rivera is the last player to wear No. 42, and the affection she has for him was apparent during Sunday’s ceremony, in the way that she held his face and looked into his eyes.
Jackie Robinson changed baseball and changed a nation, and he was at the heart of 10 years of extraordinary success for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was a great player, with a .311 batting average and .409 on-base percentage and an MVP award among four top-10 finishes, and he was a transformative figure in the game’s history. He became eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 1962, and he received 77.5 percent of the vote. In other words, he scraped by, getting the 75 percent needed for election.
Almost certainly, for some of the voters at that time, racism played a role in leaving him off the ballot. Maybe some didn’t think his playing career was worthy, in comparison to the records of others who had gained induction, like Babe Ruth. Or maybe some writers decided that no player would ever be listed on their respective ballots the first time they became eligible, a practice that has continued over the last half-century.