On a day that Major League Baseball honored the 60th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entry into America’s game, we should take a second to honor two individuals with Kentucky connections who had a major part in the Jackie Robinson legacy. The Commonwealth’s own Happy Chandler was the Commissioner at the time of Robinson’s historic moment and it was under his leadership that the path was created for the monumental moment. Joe Morgan spoke tonight on the Dodgers-Padres game about getting to know Chandler during his time with the Reds and how Happy’s decision had long-lasting effects. Morgan said that Chandler didnt want to “get to heaven and be remembered for not making this decision.” Chandler was not a perfect man…..he was known to use racial terms far too frequently and had some issues throughout his life….but Morgan said tonight that what he respected about Chandler was that he admitted to his faults and was a “great, great man.”
Another often forgotten part of the Robinson legacy, was the role played by native Kentuckian, Pee Wee Reese who played shortstop for the Dodgers. Reese is one of the all time great shortstops in major league history, but he may most often be remembered for a simple act of humanity that he bestowed on Robinson during a particularly vicious game in Cincy. With players on the opposing team heckling Robinson at second base, Reese went over and put his arm around his teammate and quickly stopped the shouts. It is an iconic moment in sports and the simplicity of it should not overshadow its importance. Robinson credited Reese for much of his acceptance from other players and they remained friends throughout his life.
It is interesting that for a state that is so often ridiculed nationally for supposedly racist thoughts and connotations, it has produced so many individuals ranging from Abraham Lincoln to John Marshall Harlan (the lone dissenter in Plessy vs. Ferguson) that have played significant roles in the advancement of civil rights. In that vein, we should remember that Chandler and Reese were not only important to one of the most important symbolic moments of the beginnings of the modern Civil Rights movement….they both were also Kentuckians. (Read the excellent (as always) George Will column on Robinson released today.
Now onto the news and/or views…..
(1) The big news of the day is of course the announcement that DeAndre Jordan is staying at Texas A&M to play for the Aggies next season. He met with new coach Mark Turgeon tonight and decided that carrying on the Aggie “tradition” would be his legacy. I like Turgeon a lot and think this is the right decision for Jordan. IT does however highlight how bogus the system that is in place is for college students. Texas A&M held all the cards in this situation and unlike EVERY OTHER COLLEGE STUDENT IN THE COUNTRY, a signed college athlete does not have the real opportunity to pick freely his or her college. Nevertheless Jordan seems happy, Billy Clyde is happy (and doesnt get criticized) and the Aggies get one heck of a player.
(2) The other big story today was the Stephon Pettigrew pick-up game in Elizabethtown. Today, WLEX, a few newspapers and other media types came to E-town to watch college coaches watch Stephon Pettigrew play basketball. If you want to know how much the internet and sites such as this have changed modern college sports coverage, look at the events today. So as to be relevant, these sources have to “cover” such events and turn them into media circuses. Billy Clyde was there, watched the games and took home video tape of Pettigrew to study. No offer came from UK, but one did come from Xavier, which may immediately shoot the Musketeers to the top of the Pettigrew pile. He plans to visit there in two weeks.
This is an important decision for Billy Clyde this week. Stephon Pettigrew is a Kentucky kid…..without an attitude…..with the ability to score…..and the desire to be a Cat. He won the three point contest at the Derby Classic and was the runner up in the two on two tournament to the loaded team of Michael Beasley and Nolan Smith. Its a tough call for Billy Clyde. On the one hand there are size concerns, he isnt really a “need” player and there are more serious roster issues. On the other, if he says no and Pettigrew goes to Xavier and becomes a star, Pettigrew becomes Billy Clyde’s Chris Lofton. I like Pettigrew….I think he should get a ride now that Morris has left…..but I understand the other position as well. Its a tough call for Billy Clyde, but like so many that are to come, its one he needs to get correct.
(3) You cant go more than a couple of days without a note on Patrick Patterson. The ubiquitous one is getting an up close and personal visit with Billy Clyde tomorrow night in Huntington and the stage is set for the biggest sell job of the young coach’s Kentucky career. The Pattersons were almost dismissive of UK if Tubby left, but now seem open to the new head man. Tomorrow is a make or break night for the Cats. The Pattersons are people who really judge coaches harshly….when they like you right away (see Tubby), you have a huge leg up. When they dont right away (another coach in the fray), you have to dig yourself out of a hole. Billy Clyde gets to go to work tomorrow night…..the Big Blue Nation hopes he does well.
(4) No word yet on the Florida visit by Jai Lucas. It is however a serious non-story in Gator land. After having back to back titles and a need to rebuild the roster, Gator fans have virtually ignored the visit that might key the movement of two McDonalds All American their way. So much for ANY Florida fans’ argument that they too love basketball like Kentucky. I am very interested on my first interview with Jai after the trip to see if the sell job put on in Gainesville worked. I have never felt like Florida was a real player until my last conversation with Jai…..now we have to see if they truly are ready to knock UK off the top spot. Should be interesting…..
(5) Other names are floating around the internet about people who Kentucky is recruiting. I can get no confirmation on any of them, so that is why you havent seen them here. As we find out for sure, either from coaches, players or folks I trust, that UK is looking at someone, we will let you know. But I am not putting a name up here just to put it up.
Big week coming up…..Coach Clyde is scheduled to be on the show sometime during the next two weeks, Woo is LIVE IN STUDIO for two hours on Tuesday….and streaming will start at some point this week (we hope). We will have news as we get it and look tomorrow for a “First Ten Days” Billy Clyde overview, along with any news that we get……
And oh yeah, here is a great picture of Patrick Sparks that is scary…..