Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
In my long broadcast journalism career, I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of meeting and covering many fascinating people. One of them was Joe Black.
Very early in the 1980’s, shortly after Ronald Reagan took over as president, Joe Black visited the studios at WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio where I was a young broadcast journalist. Black was a high executive at the Greyhound Corporation and produced a weekly nationally syndicated radio commentary. Because he was a black conservative, his views were of the type that were rarely if ever heard locally on WUWM or nationally on National Public Radio.
Black and I spoke for almost an hour. He staunchly defended the new president. His upfront discussion was so compelling and provocative that I turned the tape into a 5-part series of reports for our morning drive newsmagazine. We also replayed the entire interview during our noon hour reserved for live broadcasts of the National Press Club Luncheon or other national forums.
Towards the end of my interview, I had to and did turn the conservation over to sports.
Black, you see, was the first black pitcher to win a World Series baseball game, He did it in 1952 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His teammate was Jackie Robinson.
Black (L) and Robinson (R)
Sparing no details, Black described the vicious hatred, evil, bigotry, and threats Robinson, the focus of a recent box office favorite, had to endure for the greater good.
Somewhere in boxes and boxes of tapes from my times at WUWM and WTMJ are recordings of one of the most memorable interviews I’ve ever done, the one with Joe Black. I remember vividly Black’s accounts of those playing days with Robinson.
The racial taunts, not just from the stands, but from the opposing dugout.
The hate mail.
The not at all adoring press.
Robinson had to stay in a different hotel than the other players on the team.
At his hotel, Robinson would hear a knock on his room door. It was a woman wanting to invite herself in. Robinson declined. Five minutes later, the hotel detective was banging on the door, demanding to see if an incriminating woman was inside.
Black told me Robinson "loved to fight, could fight and would fight." But Robinson knew he had more than his personal feelings on the line. On his shoulders Robinson bore the entire future of blacks playing major league baseball.
Let me repeat that. Black told me on tape that Jackie Robinson bore the entire future of blacks playing major league baseball.
So, in Black’s words to me, Robinson “took the slings and slams” knowing there was a far greater issue at hand.
This week, everyone and his uncle including Barack Obama are gushing at the announcement of Jason Collins. Unless you’ve been under a rock, Collins told the world this week what his sexual preference was, and it isn’t heterosexual, making him the first active pro male athlete to do so.
Far too many are tripping over themselves comparing Collins, a so-so athlete at best, to Jackie Robinson. The analogy is preposterous and an insult to Robinson and his legacy.
Collins never had to overcome in a scintilla what Robinson had to fight through. There was no barrier for Collins (He’s been playing pro ball for how long?). There was no rebellious populace. There was no unsympathetic press. Collins was no trailblazer or pioneer. Not even close. The guy's career was in the toilet with nowhere else to go. So he announces he's gay.
In a pop culture dominated by political correctness, the reaction to Jason Collins has been absurdly unwarranted. Excuse me, journeyman Jason Collins and his love for guys is not major news.
It’s also not courageous. Sorry, but I reserve the word “courageous” for people who are truly “courageous.” Those would be the folks who risk things, like their lives for example.
And so I wonder. What would Joe Black, who died in 2002 of prostate cancer at the age of 78, say about this unwarranted hoopla this week? My guess having met Black would be that he would be respectful to Collins. But at the same time, given how direct Black was in my hour with him, he would strongly assert that Collins is by no means Jackie Robinson.
Read more about Joe Black.