Top Sory Box

February 2014


Steve McQueen in Montana
The Famous Actor and His Beautiful Wife Loved Livingston
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Jeanette Rankin and Belle Winestine
In honor of the Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Montana
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McQueen, the Back Story
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An Apache Outbreak,War on the Border
Chiricahua Apaches Defy and Fight U.S. and Mexican Soldiers
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Food Police a Real Possibility?
For Some, It’s an Idea Whose Time Has Come
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The Real Wolf Does Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Authors Say It Is Pro-Wolfers Who Propagate Myths

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Letters to the Editor
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Number 42
He Changed Everything



Jackie Robinson’s recent birthday (and the film 42) remind us of a cool fall evening—August 28, 1945—when the 26-year-old former Army Lieutenant who had been court marshalled for disobeying orders to sit in the back of an Army bus, walked to 215 Sukeforth Street in Brooklyn, the office of the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, Mr. Branch Rickey.

At that meeting Rickey informed the young man, Jack Roosevelt Robinson, that he was being offered a contract to play in the major leagues—the first black man in history to do so. Jackie Robinson had been a fierce competitor at basketball, football and track as well as an outstanding baseball player, lettering in all four sports at UCLA.
Rickey knew Robinson had both the physical ability and the mental capacity to be an outstanding big leaguer. The overriding question was, could this fiery young man, who believed passionately in equality and despised the unfairness that he witnessed everyday, hold his temper?

Branch Rickey told Jackie Robinson, “I need a man who can accept the worst possible abuse and take it day after day, a man with the courage not to fight back.” Robinson, the firebrand agreed, “I promise you there will be no incidents.”

On April 15, 1947, at old Ebbits Field, this black man took to the diamond in a Dodger’s uniform. America’s game and America would never be the same. The glory of simple fairness flowed into America’s pastime and the sport of baseball illuminated the uplands of people’s better nature.

Jackie Robinson played ten glorious seasons in which his Dodgers won six National League pennants. During that first historic season, he was Rookie of the Year. His lifetime batting average was 311, but many of us remember Robinson, not at the plate, but dancing over there off third with everyone, players and fans, knowing he was about to steal home. And he did.

 Just as he had promised Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson turned the other cheek again and again. Taunts, name calling, threatening letters and phone calls, insults of every stripe were heaped upon him by many fans and more than a few of the players. He responded with the fierceness of his play; an aggressive, free swinging, hard sliding brand of baseball that became the envy of players everywhere.

America’s first black ball player died of a heart attack 41 years ago at the age of 52. Life for him had not been easy. He lost sight in one eye, had diabetes, heart trouble, and his son was killed in a car accident. Jackie Robinson sacrificed a lot to go first.

Now, we will build statues and name streets for him. The U.S. Mint issued gold and silver coins in his name and likeness, and he received the Congressional Gold Medal. Each of us can remember and contribute to him, the most significant pioneer athlete of our time, by trying anew to set aside our prejudices and recognize the skill, intelligence and accomplishments of all our brothers and sisters.

 Pat Williams served nine terms as a Democrat from Montana in the United States House of Representa-tives. After his retirement, he returned home and taught at The University of Montana.










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