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Athletes get swept up in Obamania

Somewhere, <strong>Jackie Robinson</strong> was cartwheeling Tuesday.

Somewhere, Jackie Robinson was cartwheeling Tuesday.

That was the word from Don Newcombe, Robinson’s old friend and teammate. It was Robinson, of course, who busted MLB’s colour barrier in 1947, when he became its first African-American player. Newcombe, who joined Robinson with the Dodgers two years later and emerged as a superstar pitcher, remains an official spokesman for the club in Los Angeles.

And he told me tears streamed down his face as Barack Obama was inaugurated as U.S. president Tuesday.

“It’s impossible to articulate what Jackie and I went through,” Newcombe, 82, said via telephone. “We couldn’t eat in the same restaurants or pee in the same washrooms as white players. Jackie went through a living hell because he was the first. He was viewed as evil.

“And so to be alive now and to see Obama becoming president is truly incredible. I wish Jackie were alive. I wish he could see this. He’d have been so happy, so relieved. I’m sure he’s doing cartwheels today.”

Robinson died in 1972 of a heart attack. He was only 53.

Dozens of NBA luminaries skipped practices on Inauguration Day – and will consequently be slapped with club fines –to attend the Obama festitivities in Washington.

Many were serious financial contributors to Obama, including LeBron James, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Luke Walton and Chris Duhon,

Duhon, as reported here in October, even played pickup hoops against Obama.

Asked what Obama’s best basketball move was, Duhon deadpanned: “I don’t think he has one.”

The Detroit Tigers, you should know, are close to signing a new closer – ex-Blue Jay Brandon Lyon. . .Don Zimmer, who serves as a so-called adviser to the Tampa Bay Rays these days, is set to attend his 61st consecutive training camp next month, despite suffering a stroke that prevented him from speaking about a week ago. . .Add the names of Vladimir Guerrero (recovering from knee surgery) and Albert Pujols (recovering from elbow surgery) to the growing list of superstars who won’t likely participate in March’s World Baseball Classic.

Quarterback Kurt Warner, a former Arena League player who was deemed unworthy of NFL employment for years, essentially sealed his induction into the league’s Hall of Fame Sunday, when he led the Arizona Cardinals to a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC final and to a berth in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It will be Warner’s third trip to the Bowl. His teams are 8-2 in post-season play. Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts, in comparison, are 7-8 in the playoffs.

Marty York is Metro's national sports columnist as well as an
instructor at the College of Sports Media in Toronto. He can be heard
regularly on Vancouver radio station CKNW with Sportstalk host Dan
Russell. Contact Marty at marty.york@metronews.ca

 
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