SEATTLE -- February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in U.S. history. Veteran journalist Dave Sims, who is preparing for his 10th season as the Mariners' television play-by-play announcer, took time this week to talk about the importance of Black History Month, as well as remembering the notable accomplishments of black Americans in Major League Baseball.
Sims, 62, is a two-time Emmy Award winner who began his career as a sports writer for the New York Daily News before going on to play-by-play work on radio and television covering the NFL, college basketball and MLB.
Here are his thoughts:
"I had a guy I went to high school with beefing with me recently about why don't we have White History Month. Blacks have been in the minority in this country since being brought over on boats in 1619. Black History Month was created to enlighten black people, white people, all Americans, of the innumerable contributions that black Americans have made over the course of time.
"A lot of this stuff I didn't know until after college. I knew things on a broad scale, but there was a ton more that has come out since, from the advances in medicine to the contributions of George Washington Carver to doctors who were instrumental in the development of open heart surgery to the countless writers and entertainers. The length and breadth of contributions from African Americans in this country is tremendous.
"As for Major League Baseball and the role of Jackie Robinson, that's what I grew up on. My father used to pitch to me and he'd throw me a whole bunch of pitches, and then the next one would be up at my head. I was 9 or 10 and I'd say, 'What the heck?' And he'd say, 'What do you think Jackie Robinson would do in that situation?' Point well made. What that man had to deal with was incredible.
"Baseball is a tough enough sport as it is. But now you have half the country hoping you fail in epic proportions? For him to come through like that and handle himself as he did, for an alpha male like him to suck it up for three years without fighting back, that's amazing. His contributions and setting a good example and paving the path for so many people ... I certainly wouldn't be in the baseball industry without what he did. After my old man, Jackie Robinson is right up there in my hierarchy of sports heroes growing up, along with Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Mays.
"I took a lot of cues from my dad. I've been around baseball all my life. I could get on our porch in North Philly and see the lights of Connie Mack Stadium. My brother still lives in Philly and has pictures from 1958 and '59 of us in the Philly Post Office League. Baseball was my first love, sports-wise. But a lot of stuff was not taught back in the day. I was lucky in terms of history of the Negro Leagues, I learned a lot from my old man in that regard."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.