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Did you know?

Yes, Jackie Robinson's achievement of breaking the color barrier in baseball is one of the greatest accomplishments in modern American history. But do not let his trail-blazing stature minimize how great Robinson was as an athlete.

— He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was voted Rookie of the Year and elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.

— He played tailback at UCLA for the Bruins' 1939 undefeated team that finished 6-0-4.

— He won the 1940 NCAA championship in the long jump.

— He was the first UCLA athlete to letter in four sports, making All-Pac 10 in football, setting the conference record in the long jump and being named the West Coast Conference MVP in basketball.

Friday was the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.

Observing this landmark day in sports is selling Robinson's historic feat short.

Becoming the first Black man in the national pastime is one of the biggest days in U.S. history, too.

As is customary, every Major League Baseball team member in uniform wears Robinson's 42 on April 15. Other than on April 15, no one will ever wear that number again as it's been retired across the sport.

"The ability for all the players to wear 42 is a tremendous tribute to him," the Howard School baseball coach Jon Johnson said in a phone interview Friday. "Unfortunately at the same time, I think Major League Baseball can do more to grow the game and address the lack of resources for inner-city baseball leagues."

Johnson, who helped revive the Hustlin' Tigers program in recent years, would know. He helped start the Southside Youth Development non-profit for inner-city youth to play baseball and is always looking for ways to grow the game in Chattanooga.

Personally, I think all of sports should pay tribute to Robinson on this day. If your league's playing, put on a patch or recognize the 42. If your league's not playing, address it across social media at, say, 4:15 in the afternoon every 4/15 every year.

"It's been said before, 'If you can see it, you can achieve it," Johnson said, "and our kids need to see African Americans playing baseball and not just in the big leagues."

Johnson is right, the seeing leads to the believing, and it all started with Jackie Robinson doing what many believed at the time was unbelievable.

 

Election info

Early voting started this week. I have voted; have you?

If you still have not cast your ballot in local primary races, the late bird may catch the information worm.

The Times Free Press will include a 56-page Voter Guide in Sunday's paper that includes sample ballots, election resources and profiles of more than 70 candidates who are looking for your vote in the days and weeks ahead.

And all of that extra information could not come at a more critical time.

This will be the first truly contested primary race for a new Hamilton County mayor in decades. There will be new representatives on the county commission and school board, thanks to redistricting and the addition of two seats on each panel.

Add in the election of a new sheriff and a heated primary push-and-shove for district attorney, and change may be the only certainty this election cycle.

Either way, though, all of the details to help your decision-making will be in Sunday's TFP Voter Guide.

 

Obit observation

Willard Wright Johnston had his funeral service Friday. He died in January. He was 73.

It's hard to imagine someone with a wider range of interests than Mr. Johnston, who is survived by his college sweetheart and wife of 51 years, Dianna Louise, as well as his son, Patrick Wright Johnston, his grandchildren and the rest of his family.

His reach as an educator — which included stints as principal from 1977-1993 in Walker County, Ga. — is hard to guesstimate.

And when he wasn't spending time with family or educating area young people, well, Mr. Johnston could be found flying airplanes, driving race cars on NASCAR tracks around the South or singing in his rock band.

Rest easy, Mr. Johnston. You lived at a remarkable pace.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. Follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp.

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Jay Greeson
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