Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie Robinson during his collegiate years in Los Angeles

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
-Jackie Robinson

Today marks the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player to compete in the major leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Across the United States, players from each major league baseball team will wear tributes to Jackie Robinson. Every player on the Los Angeles Dodgers will wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 today. Bill Pennington of the New York Times explains that the movement to honor Jackie's memory began with a suggestion from the Cincinnati Red's Ken Griffey Jr. -

"Sixty years after Jackie Robinson shook the baseball establishment and broke the sport’s color barrier, an unforeseen grassroots movement by today’s players has suddenly shaped the way Major League Baseball will commemorate the anniversary. More than 200 players will wear Robinson’s No. 42 retired by baseball 10 years ago in ballparks across the country on Sunday, the anniversary of Robinson’s first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

While the tribute has received baseball’s approval, it grew spontaneously from a request by the Cincinnati Reds’ Ken Griffey Jr., who asked Commissioner Bud Selig earlier this month if he could wear the number on April 15. What has evolved since is surprisingly organic for a group of famous, feted athletes with multimillion-dollar contracts.

As word of Griffey’s gesture spread, small groups of players — among them stars like Barry Bonds, Dontrelle Willis and Gary Sheffield — decided also to wear 42 that day. Soon, there was a representative from every team. The Los Angeles Dodgers then decided to have their entire roster wear 42.

Now, there are six major league teams that plan to have everyone in uniform wearing No. 42 — players, coaches, manager and bat boys. Those teams are the Dodgers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Houston Astros."

-The Dodgers are one of six big league teams whose every player will wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 today
(Gina Ferazzi / L.A. Times )

The New York Yankees Derek Jeter will also wear Jackie Robinson's #42 today and he stated to the press, "I am so proud to honor this man who opened the doors for blacks to have an opportunity to play in the major leagues alongside everyone else."

Rachel Robinson, Jackie's wife, still has vivid memories of April 15, 1947:

"As Jackie Robinson was getting ready to break baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rachel was hustling to get to Ebbets Field in time to see it."

"She waited a long time for a taxi because drivers routinely passed up black passengers. She worried their baby, Jackie Jr., would be cold because she had dressed him in spring clothes. And she stopped at a hot dog stand in the ballpark, where a vendor was kind enough to heat the boy's bottle."

Rachel Robinson at the stadium. (From Spike Lee's documentary on Baseball and Jackie Robinson)

"It was an exciting, exhilarating time — but it also was a stressful time," Rachel Robinson said.
Rachel and Jackie met while they both were students at UCLA. Rachel Robinson earned a degree in nursing from the UCSF School of Nursing in 1945 before marrying Jackie in 1946. A few years after Jackie Robinson's retirement from baseball, Rachel returned to school and earned a masters degree from New York University. In 1965 Rachel became an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Yale University.

-Jackie Robinson during his collegiate years at UCLA played football, ran track, was the leading scorer on the basketball team and played baseball.

More on Jackie Robinson and Rachel Robinson at:

L.A. Times on Jackie Robinson Day

Los Angeles Dodgers Site on Jackie Robinson

New York Times on Jackie Robinson

Rachel Robinson at UCSF

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