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A's hitting coach Davis reflects on Jackie's impact

ANAHEIM -- A's hitting coach Chili Davis, reflecting on the annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration, said it's an occasion that fills him with pride.

"I just look at the man's character," Davis said before Tuesday's game against the Angels, with both teams wearing No. 42 to honor Robinson at Angel Stadium. "That's what makes me proud.

"He knew his role was not just as a ballplayer, but that he was opening doors for others. He couldn't take anything for granted, and he had to put up with a lot when he broke in. Where we are as a game today, globally, started with him."

Davis, a three-time World Series champion and 19-year Major League outfielder and designated hitter who made his debut in 1981, had Frank Robinson as his manager with the Giants. Davis recalled the talks he had with Frank Robinson about how hard it was for black players that immediately followed Jackie Robinson, too.

"I don't know if I could have done what Jackie did," Davis, 54, said. "I know a lot of guys playing today couldn't have done it."

Davis himself remembered playing Minor League games in the south, when he still heard racial slurs. He said that almost never happens today.

"Some guys, we need to look back and say, 'Thank you,' " Davis said, "Jackie's No. 1, and Curt Flood, too -- they both changed the way things were in the game. They changed lives.

"Jackie pioneered, not only for the black players, but all the players of color. And Curt Flood doesn't get enough credit for his stand, which paved the way to free agency and a lot of guys making a lot of money."

Earl Bloom is a contributor to
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