ARLINGTON -- Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, exactly three decades before Orioles manager Buck Showalter made his professional playing debut. But as Showalter worked his way through the Minors as a coach and manager, he had a personal connection to Robinson in pitching coach Russ "Monk" Meyer, who played with Robinson in the 1950s.
Meyer served as Showalter's pitching coach in the Minors, and he was the Yankees' bench coach in 1992 when Showalter took over as manager. On long bus rides, Showalter used to listen to Meyer tell stories about the first African-American player in the Majors -- the man who will be celebrated again Friday on baseball's annual Jackie Robinson Day, when all players wear his retired No. 42.
"Some of the stories [Meyer] used to tell on the bus rides about some of the things that went on with the Brooklyn Dodgers … that's when I first started becoming intrigued by it, and realizing that [Robinson] was just class," Showalter said. "I don't know how many of us or [if] anybody in today's game could have done what he did. It's one of the things I really love, drawing attention to it every year, to learn from it. It's just remarkable."
Showalter said Meyer talked about how Robinson won over his teammates, even the ones who weren't initially accepting.
"Their desire to win was more than any other feelings they might have had," Showalter said. "Very quickly they knew how much Jackie could help them win and how that evolved in making his path a little easier -- but I don't think the word 'easy' should ever be used in that whole conversation. There was nothing easy about it."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.