Nobility is as Nobility Does
It's too bad that there was so much attention being paid to this Fenway/Sheffield Shenanigan on the day that has been set aside to honor Jackie Robinson, one of the really great men ever to play. Robinson's greatness, and the attribute that Branch Rickey thought separated him from the pack, was not his amazing speed or great fielding. Rather, Jackie Robinson had the strength to deal with the terrible racism he faced, and the nobility to avoid response to it. That nobility helped place him above the discussion of race and put him in the company of other greats.
It's not noble to take a swing at a fan. Sheff is lucky the drunk who brushed his face still had the reactions to dodge. He also seems lucky that people haven't noticed that he knocked over two women with his attempt to sock that guy. Last season, Milton Bradley incurred the wrath of the media for simply yelling at a fan who had thrown a bottle at him. I'm not certain that Sheff was attacked, but I know that he didn't have an object hurled at him. His reaction seems much more extreme that that of Bradley's. Baseball Widow isn't sure why Sheff's encounter hasn't resulted in media outcry. Is it because Sheff is a star and he wears pinstripes? Maybe. Either way, it's not sitting right with Baseball Widow.
Maybe Bradley and Sheff were each 100% justified to react the way they did; I don't know. I do know, however, that being justified isn't the same as being noble. Jackie Robinson took some abuse in his day--more abuse than Bradley or Sheff can imagine, and although Baseball Widow thinks he would have been well within his rights to do much more than throw a bottle on the ground or fake a swing at his detractors, Jackie took it in stride. Baseball Widow looks at Sheffield and says, "Yeah, I might do the same if I were him." Baseball Widow looks at Jackie's legacy and says, "I only hope I could endure hardship the way he did." I'm sorry that this story took time and attention on Robinson's day (even I am guilty of that, too), but it does serve as a reminder that Jackie was much more than a great baseball player: he was a great person.
N.B.: Baseball Widow does want to recognize that there is a flip side to her argument. Jackie could not have reacted to abuse the way a white player could have without compromising the future of blacks in baseball; Bradley and Sheff can do what they please to fans and their race doesn't even come up as part of the discussion. Baseball Widow likes to think this is a sign of some equality that has been achieved. Still, it probably would be nice if we didn't have to ponder player/fan assaults at all.