The Los Angeles Dodgers joined the rest of Major League Baseball in marking the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, including having Robinson’s son David address the team.
In a 15-minute speech Friday to Dodger players, manger Dave Roberts, coaches, front office staff and Jackie Robinson Scholars at the Jackie Robinson statue in Dodger Stadium’s Centerfield Plaza, the younger Robinson discussed his father’s 1947 rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers when “a team came together in unity.”
“Bigots and racists took a different look at a Black man and the potential,” Robinson said. “The American public, the cheers began to grow from a 10%, to a 20%, to the point where the Brooklyn Dodgers became American heroes, became absolutely more than a baseball environment, a baseball game. It was a national, social development arena.
“And the Dodgers and the baseball players on the Dodgers succeeded in changing legal status, succeeded in changing mental attitudes. Jackie Robinson and the African-American community rose in spirit together and knew what African-Americans always knew: That we had the ability given the opportunity, and that the opportunity was not only unfairly denied and unjustly denied but benefited nobody.”
Robinson also said what he felt his father would say Saturday.
“My father would say, as he always said, ‘Let’s reflect. Let’s ask ourselves: where have we come as a nation in these 75 years? Have we really brought ourselves together? Have we really created equality? Is there some sustainable and gainful employment that all Americans are able to achieve?'” Robinson said.
“‘Are we unified as a nation and made stronger by that unity? Are we in sync with our neighbors around the world? What is the African-American position? What’s our plan for survival and self-development?’ Those are the questions he would ask if he was here today because those questions are still right on the table of challenges that are facing America now.”
Earlier Friday, Robinson read “I Am Jackie Robinson” by Brad Melter to students at Longfellow Elementary School in Pasadena where Robinson grew up.
Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s granddaughter Ayo and Dodger outfielder Mookie Betts unveiled a mural at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Jackie Robinson’s alma mater, highlighting various stages in his life in Southern California and beyond.
Naomi Rodriguez, Dodgers vice president of external affairs and community relations, announced a recurring yearly donation of $10,000 to John Muir High School.
Robinson’s widow Rachel was among the crowd announced at 51,891 at Dodger Stadium for the 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Pregame ceremonies included 42 Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars and alumni and 33 students from John Muir High School taking the field.
All players and other on-field personnel throughout Major League Baseball wore Robinson’s No. 42 Friday as they have done on each Jackie Robinson Day since 2009. For the first time, all teams used Dodger blue for their “42” jersey numbers, regardless of their primary team colors.
“42” patches with team-specific uniform colors appeared on Nike uniform sleeves and on New Era caps. MLB will donate all licensed royalties from the sales of caps to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973, the year following her husband’s death at the age of 53. It provides four-year college scholarships to disadvantaged students of color.
The number 42 was retired throughout Major League Baseball in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s April 15, 1947, debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson Day marked the start of Fundraiser 42, a three-month effort by the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, the team’s official charity, to raise money for Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarships.
Fans can donate by texting JACKIE42 to 41623. Friday’s 50/50 Raffle proceeds will be dedicated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
An MLB-produced video, “Play, Run, Win, Rise,” was shown at all stadiums on Jackie Robinson Day, reflecting on his legacy as a Hall of Fame and trailblazing player, social justice advocate, civil rights icon and pioneer in business and broadcasting.
The video also highlights the critical influence Rachel Robinson has had on their family’s legacy, particularly through the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Dodger pitcher David Price was among the players donating their salaries from Friday’s games to The Players Alliance to support struggling inner city and rural baseball teams, the charity announced.
“Players sacrifice their pay because they believe that diversity is an asset that should be actively pursued,” said former Dodger outfielder Curtis Granderson, The Players Alliance board chair.
The Players Alliance was formed by active and retired professional baseball players. It describes its mission as seeking to “address baseball’s systemic barriers to equity and inclusion by creating pathways to opportunities on and off the field for an undeniable pipeline of black talent.”
“Our supporters reflect every racial, religious and professional level found in the sport and they are committed to upholding Jackie’s legacy by breaking today’s barriers,” Granderson said.
Robinson went hitless in four at-bats in his major league debut, but scored what proved to be the winning run in Brooklyn’s 5-3 victory over the Boston Braves in front of a crowd announced at 25,623 at Ebbets Field.
He played his entire major league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, helping lead them to six National League titles during his 10 seasons, and, in 1955, their only World Series championship in Brooklyn.
Robinson’s successful integration of Major League Baseball is credited with helping change Americans’ attitudes toward Blacks and being a catalyst toward later civil rights advances.
“Seventy-five years ago, Jackie Robinson took the field under incredibly challenging circumstances and unimaginable pressure. Yet through his courage, character, skill, and values, he brought well-needed change to our game and advanced the civil rights movement in our country,” MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said.
“During this special anniversary year, it is a top priority for MLB to honor Jackie’s contributions and legacy, recognize the impact Rachel has made through the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and continue to keep Jackie’s memory and values alive for today’s generation of players and fans.”