On Jackie Robinson Day, all of baseball joined New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in wearing the cherished No. 42.
Everyone in uniform had Robinson’s number on their jerseys Thursday, honoring the 63rd anniversary of the day he broke baseball’s color barrier by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Major League Baseball retired 42 on the 50th anniversary in 1997 but allowed players who already had it to wear the number until they finished their career. Rivera, the only player to still have it, is distinctly aware of what it means.
“It’s a privilege, an honor, to be the last one to wear 42, it’s a blessing for me,” the New York closer said. “I definitely have a job to do to represent him well.”
In a brief ceremony before the Yankees hosted the Los Angeles Angels, Robinson’s widow, Rachel, their daughter, Sharon, and two medical school students on scholarships provided by the Jackie Robinson Foundation were honored near home plate.
A tribute to his legacy was shown on the videoboard and the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames gave Rachel Robinson a bouquet of flowers. When the public address announcer introduced the starting lineups, every player was “number 42.”
Robinson’s grandson, Jesse Simms, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Around the league, there was an outpouring of respect and admiration for the man who on April 15, 1947, transformed America’s pastime – and so much more in the era before the civil rights movement.
“Without Mr. Robinson I wouldn’t be sitting here and President Obama would not be president of the United States,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said in Toronto. “If you really go back and look at this, Mr. Robinson started all this before even Martin Luther King. He went through a lot to make it better for myself and minorities. This is the guy that got it rolling for everybody.”
Throughout the majors, each club autographed a No. 42 jersey that will be auctioned with the proceeds going to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973, a year after her husband died.
Clubs that did not play Thursday – including the Seattle Mariners – will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day today.
The Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. was instrumental in the way baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, suggesting to commissioner Bud Selig more than a decade ago that players for this one day a year be allowed to wear No. 42.
Injured Boston Red Sox outfielders Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury will each be examined today. Cameron was scratched from the lineup for Thursday’s game at Minnesota with a lower abdominal strain, and Ellsbury is still feeling discomfort from the collision that has sidelined him since last Sunday. … The Atlanta Braves have placed left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes on the 15-day disabled list with a hyperextended right knee. … Left-hander Scott Olsen and outfielder Justin Maxwell have been recalled by the Washington Nationals from Triple-A Syracuse, and right-hander Jason Bergmann has been designated for assignment. … Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero had surgery in Phoenix to repair a partial meniscus tear in his right knee. Chris Snyder has moved into the starting lineup. … The Toronto Blue Jays acquired outfielder Fred Lewis from the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named or cash.