A tribute to Jackie Robinson

LaTroy Hawkins has heard the stories from his 87-year-old grandfather, about his days of picking cotton in Mississippi, about the times when there were no black players in big league baseball.
And about what it meant when Jackie Robinson broke the game’s color barrier.
“Without Jackie, I wouldn’t be in front of you” – the Los Angeles Angels pitcher told several dozen kids at a Bronx ballfield Sunday. “Jackie’s role in my life has been tremendous.”
From Dodger Stadium to Fenway Park, there were ceremonies as Major League Baseball honored Robinson and his legacy. Video tributes and on-field celebrations at every ballpark included his family, his former teammates, players from the Negro Leagues and NBA great Bill Russell.
Players, managers, coaches and umpires all wore No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day to remember the 65th anniversary of the day the future Hall of Famer first took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Markers on each base noted the occasion.
“I’m very happy the players feel that connected” – said his daughter, Sharon Robinson. “Back in 1997, players were saying: ‘Jackie who?’ So we’ve come a long way.”
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Hawkins and several former players joined Sharon Robinson at a youth clinic in a park where the old Yankee Stadium stood. Smiling boys and girls from the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program in Harlem eagerly showed off their gloves and jerseys for two-time All-Star Harold Reynolds.

A tribute to Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson.

If Yankees closer Mariano Rivera retires after this season, there no longer will be an active player in Major League Baseball wearing No. 42. Rivera had to let that thought sink in on Jackie Robinson Day.
“Being the last minority to be wearing this No. 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 Sunday.
When the league decided that all players would wear No. 42 every April 15, the day that Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, it was one of the greatest things that the sport could have done. While it doesn’t erase one of the ugliest stains on American history, it provides an opportunity to reflect on just how far America has come and just how far it has to go with regards to race relations.
“I don’t think I can fully understand the sacrifices that he made and what he went through at that time. I didn’t grow up during that time” – Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. “My parents did. It had to be tough. It’s just good to be able to wear the number and to have guys recognize and understand that we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s daughter, was at Yankee Stadium with her mother, Rachel, before the Yankees walloped the Angels on Sunday night. It was the 65th anniversary of her father breaking baseball’s color barrier. She was only 6 years old when her father retired. She doesn’t recall ever seeing him play, but she recognizes the significance of his legacy.
“Here we are concerned with a decreasing number of African- Americans (in baseball) so it’s very important to bring back up the history and to think about how much we went through to get a fully integrated major league baseball. So it does resonate (today)” – Sharon Robinson said. “It’s important that the young people hear that story. So I’m very happy the players feel that connected. In 1997 players were saying ‘Jackie Who’? So we’ve come a long way that they somehow feel they’re connected with the legacy.”
Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson was thinking of a way to honor Robinson’s sacrifice when his shoe company asked him if he wanted to do something special with his customized shoes this year. Granderson had it create a pair of cleats bearing the No. 42 logo that he wore during Sunday night’s game. He was to auction off the shoes and one of the two jerseys he wore following the game and donate the proceeds to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

As baseball celebrates the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier for the Dodgers, the new stewards of his old team are working to embrace his family in the incoming ownership group.
Sharon Robinson, the daughter of the late Hall of Fame infielder, confirmed Sunday the Dodgers’ incoming owners have invited the Robinson family and its foundation to play a significant role with the team.
“We hope that we will be involved” – Sharon Robinson said. “It’s a very important franchise. It’s a team we still feel very connected to. We’re really proud of how they came out of the gate this year. We want to see the whole franchise re-energized, just like the team seems to be.”
Robinson said no formal agreement has been reached and declined to discuss what role her family might wish to play with the Dodgers. She said Guggenheim Baseball Management — the ownership group fronted by Magic Johnson — initiated the discussions through Leonard Coleman, the former National League president and current chairman of the board of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Robinson spoke warmly of Johnson, a friend for three decades. Before he died in 1972, Jackie Robinson longed aloud for a day when African Americans would not only play for major league teams but manage them, and work in their front offices. The face of the Dodgers’ new ownership group is African American.
“It is groundbreaking” – she said. “I think it’s exciting. I think it’s going to breathe some new life into the Dodgers’ organization. I think he’ll be out there in the community, really bringing more fans back in.”
Sharon Robinson was at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, where the annual Jackie Robinson commemoration was juxtaposed against the latest evidence of the decline in African American players.
African Americans make up 8% of major league players, down from 19% in 1995 and 27% in 1975, according to USA Today.
Johnson can help if he can get out of the office – New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson said.
“It’s going to be a tough thing” – Granderson said. “I don’t know what kind of things he’s got in store. Hopefully, he can get some kids to the ballpark to see games, and he can get out in the community.
“I don’t think him being part-owner is going to be enough.”

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