First baseman Zenn says he owes debt of gratitude to player who broke baseball's color barrier

  • Devon Zenn

ROHNERT PARK — Oh, that any of us could have this kind of influence on someone.

Devon Zenn was born 20 years after Jackie Robinson died.

"In a way, I feel I owe this man my life," said SSU's 21-year-old first baseman.

Zenn's mother is white. His father is black. For Zenn, Robinson's impact was more than just being the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues.

"He showed that black people and white people could live together," Zenn said.

Yes, Zenn acknowledged, if Robinson hadn't come along, there would have been some other African-American to accept the challenge. The world was moving that way in 1947. It is still moving that way. No matter. It's provocative but nonetheless bar stool conversation to speculate whom else the Dodgers' Branch Rickey would have picked to break the color barrier.

What is of more consequence to Zenn is this: Who could have done it with any more distinction, self-control and intelligence? Who could have provided a more compelling template of humanity than Robinson? Could any other black man have given white people more of a reason to get along and forget skin color?

I know I couldn't have done what Robinson did, I told Zenn.

"I couldn't have, either," said the senior from Benicia. "He was under so much stress, 24 hours a day."

For 10 years, the length of his big-league career.

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