The historical significance of Magic Johnson’s latest feat was lost on a few Dodgers, but not Jerry Hairston Jr.
To Hairston, whose grandfather Sam became the first black player to play for the Chicago White Sox in 1951, it’s special to play for the league’s first black (part-)owner in Johnson.
“I think Jackie Robinson would be very proud today,” Hairston said.
A self-described “history buff” –as well as a third-generation major-leaguer — Hairston sees the civil rights movement through a unique lens.
Sam Hairston, a catcher, played for the Negro League’s Birmingham (Ala.) Black Barons in 1944 before playing four games for the White Sox in 1951. Jerry Hairston Sr. grew up in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s, so the lessons of a segregated South– and a segregated game — literally hit close to home for him and his sons.
Were it not for Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers, Sam Hairston might not have played one major-league game, let alone four. And forget about a black owner.
That begs the question: Which is the greater feat, Robinson’s in 1947 or Johnson’s on Tuesday?
“I’m going to say Jackie,” Hairston Jr. said, “because we don’t get to that (ownership) without Jackie.
“That brought us to a point where we can do things … that brought the courage for a Martin Luther King to come through, a Rosa Parks to come through, a Jesse Jackson to come through.”