“Saturday will mark the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, and special activities planned for this Jackie Robinson Day will include the unveiling of the Hall of Famer’s statue at Dodger Stadium, the introduction of a “Trailblazer Series” for girls, the annual donning of No. 42 by all active players and a lot of buzz about the upcoming Jackie Robinson Museum.
In what promises to be an emotional ceremony before the Dodgers’ 9:15 p.m. ET home game against Arizona, Robinson’s 94-year-old wife Rachel and their children Sharon and David will be on hand for the unveiling of a statue depicting Jackie in his rookie season of 1947, sliding into home plate in his signature style. Dodgers owner Magic Johnson, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, and legends Frank Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe and Vin Scully will among participants in that invitation-only dedication a few hours before the game. The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica Jackie Robinson statue, with seats available at dodgers.com/tickets.
As has been tradition each year since 2009, MLB will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing the now-retired No. 42 during all Saturday games. One jersey will be signed by each member of every club and auctioned live on Saturday at MLB.com/42jersey, with proceeds benefitting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.”
This man has always been an admirable individual, displaying the attributes of courage, strength, dedication, selflessness, and humility. According to his official website, he was born to a family of sharecroppers in 1919. His mother single-handedly raised him and his four other siblings. They were a close-knit family, united against the prejudice and hatred they faced from their neighbours as they were the only Black family on the block in the area in which they lived:
“Growing up in a large, single-parent family, Jackie excelled early at all sports and learned to make his own way in life. At UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team. Due to financial difficulties, he was forced to leave college, and eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. After two years in the army, he had progressed to second lieutenant. Jackie’s army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to his objections with incidents of racial discrimination. In the end, Jackie left the Army with an honorable discharge.
In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Jackie about joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Major Leagues had not had an African-American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated. When Jackie first donned a Brooklyn Dodger uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in America. By breaking the color barrier in baseball, the nation’s preeminent sport, he courageously challenged the deeply rooted custom of racial segregation in both the North and the South.”
There will be many events at baseball parks across the USA commemorating this historic day. On Thursday, 13 April, the Seattle Mariners unveiled a statue celebrating our own hometown hero, Ken Griffey Jr. A little-known fact: Ken Griffey Jr. was a prime motivator behind getting all players in the MLB to wear Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, on Jackie Robinson Day. From the Seattle Mariners website:
“Ken Griffey Jr. takes immense pride in the fact his retired No. 24 hangs alongside Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in center field at Safeco Field. He relishes his role in getting every Major League player and coach to wear No. 42 now every year on Jackie Robinson Day.
So yes, as MLB celebrates another Jackie Robinson Day on Saturday, Griffey fully appreciates his latest link to baseball’s African-American pioneer as part of the intricate detail of the new statue of his likeness that was unveiled Thursday at the front gate to Safeco Field.
Sculptor Lou Cella included a Jackie Robinson patch on the right sleeve of the seven-foot bronze statue, much to Griffey’s approval. “Like I tell everybody, if it wasn’t for him, when’s the next time somebody would have played?” Griffey said. “For him to sacrifice pretty much his life and go through the trials and tribulations that he had to go through [is greatly appreciated].” Griffey’s home in Orlando is 35 minutes from Sanford, Fla., where Robinson lived during his first Spring Training in 1946 with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm club, in a time of considerable racial tension…Griffey was the first player to wear Robinson’s No. 42 as a tribute on Jackie Robinson Day, having the Mariners flip-flop his normal 24 to 42 on the 50th anniversary of the day Robinson broke into the big leagues on April 15, 1997.
Ten years later, when Griffey was with the Reds, he called then-Commissioner Bud Selig to ask if he could again wear No. 42 on the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s historic day since MLB had by then retired the number throughout baseball.
Selig not only granted his approval, he liked the idea so much that the process began where now everyone wears 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.”
Here’s to Jackie Robinson on his day in history. His contributions were many, and should not be diminished.