We toasted with champagne. The mayor and county executive proclaimed Jackie Robinson Day. Our news director cut the cake topped with a sweet photo of Jackie. We bestowed this fixture of Channel 3 news with signed photos, sunny balloons and a bouquet of white roses. After all that passed - we simply sat on the set. Longer than I can ever remember.
This was Jackie Robinson's last day. It turned out to be one of the most memorable of her storied career. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as our CNYCentral staff crowded onto the set along with Jackie's family. I know I had a few moments sprinkled into our celebratory tribute where I choked back tears. Jackie held up remarkably well, fighting through her own written remarks even as she remembered her loving mother who passed away a few years ago.
We had joked a bit about the funny moments. We recalled the big picture significance of her ground breaking promotion to weeknight anchor. She was the first African-American to hold the post at WSTM.
Perhaps the most fun in the studio tonight was hearing former Syracuse Orange football coach Dick MacPherson tell Jackie on camera that she was "too damn young and too damn pretty to retire." Basketball coach Jim Boeheim even cracked a smile. He admittedhe doesn't always get along with the media, but acknowledged Jackie as a Central New York role model.
After all that, we sat there in those chairs on the news set. Several co-workers joined us on the set to take pictures. We didn't remove our microphones. We simply sat there savoring the last moment. "Good night, Central New York" echoed in the air. Jackie Robinson's television news career faded to black. And she was still smiling that unforgettable smile.
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