MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

No place for what Jones faced

No place for what Jones faced

Adam Jones represents so many of the things we love about this sport. He represents plenty of what we love about this country, too. No player is more respected by his teammates and his peers.

Jones is what we would all like to be in terms of talent and character, in terms of intellect and strength. Who he is as a man does not make what happened to him Monday night at Fenway Park any better or worse, just maybe more poignant, more outrageous.

Jones said he was the object of racial taunts during an Orioles-Red Sox game. He said a bag of peanuts was thrown in his direction. Jones said he has heard some of this sort of thing before at Fenway, but never like it was on Monday night.

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"It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being," Jones said. "I'm trying to make a living for myself and for my family. It's unfortunate."

So what should we feel?

So what should we do?

Let's begin with the obvious. We should feel shame for our country that we can still sink to this place. This is so much larger than baseball, so much larger than one little ballpark in New England.

This isn't just about the Red Sox or about Boston. Sure, Boston has issues with racism. That's not unique to one city or one area.

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That said, this was a collection of jerks spewing hatred, who, whether empowered by ignorance or alcohol, felt emboldened to go to the worst of places.

This was a sobering reminder that while we've come many miles since Jackie Robinson and Selma, since Birmingham and Memphis, that we still have many miles to go.

At this point, let's remind ourselves of the relationship between baseball and civil rights. Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line in 1947, changing not just a sport but an entire country.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has called it "the most important moment in baseball history." Robinson changed more than a sport. He changed a nation. At least, he fired a resounding first shot in the American civil rights movement. For that, baseball rightfully holds its head high in any discussion of race.

Monday's ugliness came after a weekend in which the Red Sox and Cubs put on a great show at Fenway Park, a weekend that did the sport proud.

We are better than this. We simply have to be. Amid the shame and anger, amid the embarrassment, we must rededicate ourselves to being vigilant and intolerant of racism in all its ugly forms.

That this would happen to Adam Jones is rife with meaning. He's one of the great ambassadors of his sport as well as one of baseball's greatest players and the heart and soul of a great franchise.

The Baltimore Orioles were resurrected, in part, on Jones' shoulders, and he has used his fame and his wealth to make Baltimore a better place. Hundreds of kids have been given a chance to play baseball -- and to have mentors and positive role models and all the rest -- because of him.

As part of that mentoring, Jones took a group of parents and kids to see the movie "42" a few years ago. He did it because he was moved by the film and because he thought his kids should understand who Jackie Robinson was and what he had done for this country.

After the movie, Jones was stunned when parents came up to him in tears and told him they hadn't really understood the importance of Jackie Robinson.

That's who Adam Jones is. He's proud and smart and conscientious. He cares for his teammates and for his city and believes truly that it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

In short, Jones is one of the great things about this game and about our country, a national treasure. His phenomenal catch in the World Baseball Classic will stand as one of the highlights of this season.

Jones then returned to the Orioles and led them to another fast start, a start in which they've impressed an entire sport with their attention to detail and bulldog competitive fire.

Can we be better than this terrible night? We have to be. Boston has to be. Remember David Ortiz grabbing the public-address microphone at Fenway Park and speaking for an entire city after the Boston Marathon bombings?

Remember how the city came together after that, with strangers caring for strangers and an incomprehensible pride and unity on display?

It was beautiful and real. It was also color blind.

Adam Jones deserves better. Every other player does, too. So does the United States of America.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.