Sixty years today at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. When Robinson took the field to play first base against the Boston Braves, he became the first African-American player in modern era of Major League Baseball. Despite enduring constant harassment by fans and other players during his first year, Robinson won Rookie of the Year honors from the Sporting News and Major League Baseball. In what would become a Hall of Fame career, Robinson was a six-time All Star (1949-1954), the NL MVP in 1949, and made six World Series appearances with the Dodgers.
Today, baseball honors Robinson in several ways, including allowing number 42, to be worn again for one day around the league. While Robinson's number was retired around the league 10 years ago with a ceremony at Shea Stadium, Mariano Rivera is the only active player in the league still wears the number. When asked about wearing the number, Rivera said, "As a minority, I feel honored wearing the No. 42 and carrying the legacy that Jackie Robinson left. I wear it with good pride. That's the way it goes. All the guys retired or left, and I'm still carrying the number. I feel blessed for that." Robinson Cano, who was named after Jackie Robinson and plays the same position that Jackie Robinson played for most of his career, will join Rivera, Derek Jeter and Joe Torre in wearing #42.
On the Mets, the honor of wearing number 42 goes to manager Willie Randolph, the first black manager for a baseball team in New York. When Randolph talked about wearing the number on Robinson's anniversary, he said, "Any time I can be involved with the name Jackie Robinson, it's an honor for me. I want to be the one. He was such a special man who did so much for so many people. I'm looking forward to the ceremony." Unfortunately, the ceremony at Shea will have to be rescheduled as the game was postponed due to the weather.
While Rivera, Cano, Jeter, Torre and Randolph are just a few of over 200 people that were granted permission by Major League Baseball to wear #42, the movement is just a small tribute to the groundwork that was laid when Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field 60 years ago.
The new Mets Stadium (aka CitiField) will include a tribute to Jackie Robinson in the form of a rotunda. And the Jackie Robinson Foundation, led by his widow Rachel Robinson, gives four-year college scholarships to high school athletes.
Photo of John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947 by the AP