Jackie Robinson played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in his first major league baseball game. It was April 15, 1947. George Will writes:
April 15, 2007 -- LIKE many New Yorkers leaving home for work on April 15, 1947, he wore a suit, tie and camel-hair overcoat as he headed for the subway. To his wife he said, "Just in case you have trouble picking me out, I'll be wearing number 42."
No one had trouble spotting the black man in the Dodgers' white home uniform when he trotted out to play first base at Ebbets Field. Suddenly, only 399, not 400, major league players were white. Which is why 42 is the only number permanently retired by every team.
By stepping out on the field the way he did, the immensely courageous Jackie Robinson took the country a huge step forward in a what has been a continuing process of seeking to assure that talent, not skin color, is what counts in America. It was a step has most certainly had that effect on the game of baseball.
Ripping away racial barriers, by the way, didn't just elevate America's moral standing; it also produced a superior sports product - by ensuring that the nation's most talented athletes could participate.
Regardless of skin color - white, black, Latino, increasingly Asian - there is little doubt that the best baseball players are out there today playing major-league baseball.
It took a giant and Robinson was that.