A fitting tribute to a legend
Many players, including all of the Dodgers, plan to wear No. 42
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers -- all of them -- will be wearing No. 42 on Sunday at Dodger Stadium in honor of one of their own. It's the 60th anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in a regular-season game for the first time, thus re-integrating Major League Baseball forever.Robinson will be honored in each of the 15 ballparks where games will be played this April 15, but the big ceremony will be in Chavez Ravine, six decades and 3,000 miles from Flatbush and tiny Ebbets Field, where Robinson went out to play first base. The Dodgers defeated the Boston Braves that day and the grand old game was never the same. Commissioner Bud Selig will be there. So will Rachel Robinson, Jackie's seemingly ageless widow and the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which offers college scholarships to underprivileged minority students. And when the Dodgers take the field to play the Padres, each and every one of the starters will have on his back the famous No. 42. That's the number Selig retired on the occasion of Robinson's 50th anniversary in 1997, but was "unretired" by the Commissioner's proclamation for the day on Sunday. "Obviously, Jackie was a player who changed the game," said Luis Gonzalez, a first-year Dodger, when asked about the club's gesture. "He opened up the culture barrier for a lot of players. The stuff that he had to go through opened the door for all minorities to be able to play in this game." The 8 p.m. ET ceremony and game will be carried live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and on XM Satellite Radio. It will be preceded by a 90-minute pregame show on MLB.TV and BaseballChannel.TV, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The pregamer will be hosted by Seth Everett in New York with live feature reports from Dodger Stadium generated by Billy Sample and Ed Randall, who will also bring in special guests. The idea of wearing No. 42 in honor of Robinson will be duplicated throughout the Major Leagues on Sunday and was the brainchild of Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr., who personally petitioned the Commissioner last week for the opportunity. "It's just my way of giving that man his due respect," Griffey said. "I just called Bud and asked him if I could do it. He made a couple of phone calls and said, 'Yeah.' We had a good conversation. It was about me wearing it on that day, and only that day." At that point, Selig said that he welcomed the gesture and that every club was free to have at least one player join in. "I think it's great," Selig said on Monday night during his visit to Chase Field for the Diamondbacks' home opener against the Reds. "Just their understanding of history and what that man did for so many people is so important. Believe me, it makes me very happy. I had a lot of respect for [Griffey] to begin with. But this is wonderful. "
Barry Bonds of the Giants quickly accepted at the behest of Peter Magowan, the team's managing general partner, and others such as Minnesota's Torii Hunter, Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, Derrek Lee of the Cubs and Gary Sheffield of the Tigers are among the stars who have joined the group.The Yankees' Mariano Rivera, of course, has worn 42 since he joined the Yankees for good in 1995 and was among a handful of players grandfathered in when Selig retired Robinson's number. Rivera is the only remaining active player who still wears the number. "As a minority, I feel honored wearing the No. 42 and carrying the legacy that Jackie Robinson left," Rivera said. "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." Other teams such as the Pirates and Cardinals have also pledged their allegiance to Robinson and, like the Dodgers, will wear No. 42 as a full squad when they play on Sunday, Selig said. The Pirates play the Giants in Pittsburgh and the Cardinals are at home against the Brewers. "I think the players should wear it who want to wear it," Selig said. "On the Diamondbacks, there are four or five players who are going to do it. [Mets manager] Willie Randolph, I know, is very proud to wear it." The No. 42 jerseys will then all be auctioned with the proceeds going to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Expected to join Rachel Robinson for the ceremony is their daughter Sharon Robinson; several of Jackie's former teammates, including pitchers Don Newcombe and Tommy Lasorda -- the Hall of Fame former manager of the Dodgers and a consultant to the team; various baseball executives, civic and industry leaders; Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars, and winners of the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. A series of baseball and softball clinics for kids hosted by the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Program will be staged at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in nearby Compton, Calif., on Saturday morning. Dodgers Marlon Anderson and Juan Pierre will conduct the clinics and Frank Robinson plus former Dodgers Lou Johnson, Newcombe, Rudy Law and Ken Landreaux will also all be on hand. But the day will be forged in memory of Robinson and that magnificent No. 42. "Jackie Robinson was a Dodger," said Jamie McCourt, the club's president and vice chairman. "And the most fitting tribute the Dodgers can pay to him is for the entire team to wear his number on the 60th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.