Differences set aside for Jackie Robinson Day
LOS ANGELES – Another brawl would not have been appropriate, not on this night with so much going on. Certainly not when Jackie Robinson was being remembered for his quiet courage or when hearts and minds were focused on the events in Boston.
A baseball game seemed almost inconsequential. Retaliation would have been shameful. Had the Dodgers chosen to exact revenge for losing a pitcher during a brawl in San Diego last week, they would have looked foolish.
Both sides clearly understood this, so the Dodgers and Padres decided the best thing to do Monday night was just play ball.
Imagine that. No inside pitches, no staredowns, no threatening gestures. Just baseball.
That’s not to say that angry feelings have subsided. Big league players have long memories, and the left collarbone that Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke sustained when Carlos Quentin of the Padres charged the mound won’t easily be forgotten.
But in this game, and presumably this series, the bad feelings were set aside, if for no other reason than to avoid disgracing the memory of Jackie Robinson.
“What happened happened,” outfielder Matt Kemp said before the Padres won the series opener 6-3. “You just turn the page and get ready for a great day of baseball. There’s more important things instead of thinking about retaliation or whatever it is that people think are going to happen.
“I don’t want fans in the stands going crazy thinking we should get payback from the Padres for what they did to us or what we did to them. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt. There’s more to life than retaliating for something that — when you look at it and the things Jackie did for us and what he went through — is really not that big a deal.”
There were more important things going on. Jackie Robinson for one. His resilience in breaking baseball’s color barrier was front and center. His wife, Rachel, was escorted on the field by Magic Johnson to a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium. Players from both teams wore Jackie’s No. 42 in his memory. Nothing would have been more out of place than a continuation of last Thursday’s brawl.
The fact is, baseball would have frowned on such an occurrence.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Padres manager Bud Black acknowledged before the game that they had received calls earlier in the day from Joe Torre, vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, suggesting they remind their players of the solemnity of the evening. They got the message.
“He just wanted to make sure we keep in perspective where we’re at today, Jackie Robinson Day,” Mattingly said. “We’re here to win a game. … We’ll make sure that we know, let’s keep our composure and we’re here to win a game. We don’t need to lose players.”
They’ve already lost Greinke for possibly eight weeks. Quentin accepted his eight-game suspension rather than appeal, which would have allowed him to play in this series and probably heightened tensions. Dodger fans, largely indifferent to the Padres, booed every time a San Diego player was introduced.
There was heighted security by the Los Angeles Police Department, but that was in response to the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The Dodgers wouldn’t say if they beefed up their own stadium security in case fans got unruly toward Padres players, but Quentin’s absence probably helped things stay calm.
As far as the Padres were concerned, the incident and its ugly aftermath were behind them.
“For us, it’s over,” Black said.
They’ll face each other again in June, and perhaps by then everything will be brushed away. But it’s not likely.
Or maybe Kemp will remember what he said Monday afternoon when someone asked him about the tragedy in Boston. In a broader sense, it could apply to the bad blood festering between the Dodgers and Padres.
“I just don’t understand why this is going on,” he said. “Every time you look up, something bad is happening. We’ve got to get better as people. We’re in a free country, and we’re lucky to be in the situation we’re in. I’m grateful for being an American, but there’s a lot of crazy things going on this world that I hope get fixed.”