By Kate Space
SC Staff Writer
On Sunday, April 15, the New York Yankees hosted a pregame tribute to MLB Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson at the new Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York. At the ceremony, which included Robinson’s wife Rachel and daughter Sharon, players and fans joined the rest of the league in honoring April 15, 2012 as the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s monumental achievement of breaking down the racial barriers of baseball in America.
Robinson was the first African-American man to play major league baseball, stepping onto the field for the first time on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a legendary figure in the civil rights movement, MLB has celebrated Robinson’s legacy by retiring his jersey number, 42, and dedicating April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day league-wide. New York’s own Mariano Rivera is the only player in MLB to currently wear the number 42 since its league-wide retirement in 1997. “Being the last minority to be wearing this number 42, it’s an honor and privilege and a challenge to carry this legacy of the number that is attached to his name,” Rivera said of Robinson.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano—who is actually named after the legendary baseball icon—greeted Rachel and Sharon Robinson along with shortstop Derek Jeter behind home plate before the start of the 8:05 game against the Angels of Anaheim on Sunday night. All players proudly wore the number 42 on their jerseys to honor Robinson’s legacy.
Sharon Robinson spoke to the stadium of players and fans about the importance of keeping her father’s legacy alive. “The change affected all of us,” she said, reflecting on the transformation that took place as a result of her father’s actions back in 1947. “It didn’t just affect African-Americans or people of color, it affected all of us and I really think the players embrace that.” Sharon also touched on the declining number of African-American players in major league baseball, saying, “It’s very important to bring up the history and to think about how much we went through to get a fully integrated major league baseball.”
Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife, also spoke in memory of her late husband. “It gives us great pride to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Jack’s barrier-breaking accomplishments. This anniversary serves as a reminder of Jack’s enduring legacy and the profound impact he had on America,” she said. “It is my hope that this commemoration serves as an inspiration to all as we look to unite behind our common goals.”
A number 42 jersey from each team in the league was autographed and offered for auction on MLB.com following the game on Sunday, with all proceeds going to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was established by Rachel Robinson in 1973 as a means of keeping Jackie Robinson’s memory alive. To learn more about Jackie Robinson’s life accomplishments or the Jackie Robinson Foundation, visit www.jackierobinson.org or www.MLBcommunity.org.
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