Young a passionate student of Robinson

Royals pitcher's Princeton thesis chronicled impact of Jackie's integration on baseball, America

Young a passionate student of Robinson

HOUSTON -- Friday is Jackie Robinson Day and is a special day all around Major League Baseball and the country.

And it is certainly a day of reflection for Royals right-hander Chris Young.

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Young, after all, devoted his college thesis at Princeton to the subject of Jackie Robinson and integration: "The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial Sterotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories About Race in The New York Times."

Young tackled the subject on the suggestion of a college adviser. Young already had been drafted by the Pirates and signed in 2000, but he was determined to graduate with his class at Princeton. So he spent much of 2000 and 2001, the latter year when he was in the Minors, writing the thesis.

That included writing on bus rides and in less-than-glamorous hotel rooms.

"I had a laptop and I'd write on the bus until the battery went out," Young said.

Young researched the project from the Princeton library. And remember, Internet research was in its infancy back then.

"I went through a lot of microfilm of the Times," Young said. "Spent a lot of nights falling asleep on the projector in the basement of the Princeton library."

But Young did finish the 80-page thesis on time.

"It was a year-long project and a graduation project for every senior," Young said. "You try to pick up a topic you are passionate about for whatever major you are studying and I was a politics major.

"One of my focuses in the politics degree was the way in which media shapes public opinion. So really, Jackie Robinson and the integration into baseball was the variable in how public opinion was changed about integration."

Young researched every New York Times issue three months before and three months after Robinson's debut on April 15, 1947. Young targeted non-sports stories so he could determine Robinson's effect on society, not just sports.

What Young learned, he said, was fascinating.

"Just the language changed and there was a shift in the way African-Americans were viewed in the media," Young said. "The thesis being that the media really impacts public opinion. If you are portrayed a certain way in the media, the public is more willing to accept that."

Young said he was startled to see some of the adjectives in print used to describe African-Americans, especially those suspected of a crime, some too vulgar to repeat, even in The Times. In other cases, descriptions were demeaning, such as "an intelligent Negro who went to college."

"But it began to change in the three months after Jackie Robinson's debut," Young said. "It had a positive impact in the media at the time, and it helped transform public opinion about African-Americans. You can argue it is what started the Civil Rights Movement."

And what grade did Young receive for his thesis?

"I got a B," Young said. "But the most important thing to me was I graduated on time. I wish I could have spent more time on it, but I got it completed and I graduated."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.