I was going to call this post "The Answer" but I didn't want you to think it was about Allen Iverson (an athlete I have a lot of opinions about, but that will be a whole different post). If you are the nerd that I am, you already know the answer to life, the universe, and everything: 42. I will let google field the queries for the uninformed on that one, but beyond its literary connotations, the number 42 has a very important meaning in baseball.
In 1997, baseball took the unprecedented step of retiring the #42 throughout Major League Baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson (something that subsequently hockey did to the #99 for Wayne Gretzky and football did for the #32 for OJ Simpson - wait, I might be wrong on that second one). Now, I am all for the love and adoration that Jackie Robinson gets as a man. If I have to tell you what he did and what he went through, I have to question your reading of a baseball blog. What gets lost in all of his humanitarian accolades is the fact that he was one hell of a ball player. In a beautiful imaginary world where Cap Anson didn't conspire to ban Fleetwood Walker and blacks always played in MLB, Jackie Robinson would be remembered as one of the great smooth roughhouse ballplayers of all time. From everything I have read and seen, he was a thing to behold. He ran without fear, hit the ball hard to all fields, and fielded his position like a dancer. Just remember during all the hullabaloo this weekend that Jackie Robinson was not only a great human being, he was one of the all time greats between the lines.
After baseball retired the #42, any player wearing it was "grandfathered" in and allowed to wear it until they retired. As players wearing it slowly disappeared, only Mariano Rivera was left. Then a few years ago, some players started wearing it on Jackie Robinson Day as a tribute. Then, baseball let all of the players wear it. While some have bemoaned the recent fetishism of all the players wearing #42 on Jackie Robinson Day, this year, it has personally worked to my advantage. My brother's birthday is at the end of March and my usual birthday present to him is to get him tickets to a baseball game. These tickets almost always involve our team, the Mets...and we don't only go to Mets games in Queens, we have been up and down the eastern seaboard. When I lived in Boston, we went to Fenway. We went to the Bronx and saw the second Mets/Yanks game ever. We went to Baltimore and Camden Yards - twice! - and last year we went to Washington. This year, we will go to Philly and see their ballpark and those (now very hated) Phillies. Also this year, I specifically chose Jackie Robinson Day. First off, because I have never been to Jackie Robinson Day. But secondly and far more importantly, this year my brother turned 42. That's right, this year, my gift to my brother is not only seats to a Major League Baseball game, but I "arranged" it so all the players would wear his age on his back. Happy Birthday Bro!