Jackie Robinson’s remarkable life will be honored throughout Major League Baseball on Monday -- the 72nd anniversary of his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. That day, Robinson changed the sport inexorably and forever when he became the first African American to play Major League Baseball.
If this wasn’t precisely the beginning of the American Civil Rights movement, it was a clarion call for change. From that ripple grew a tidal wave that would sweep across the United States, from Birmingham to Little Rock, from Selma to the Lincoln Memorial. Because of Jackie Robinson, Americans were forced to confront a world in which black and white men could work side by side for a common goal.
This may have been Major League Baseball’s finest hour. Since 2004, the anniversary of Robinson’s first game has been set aside to honor his memory and legacy, and this year's Jackie Robinson Day is special, since Robinson would have turned 100 in January. Baseball will be celebrating that milestone throughout the season.
Here’s a sampling of how MLB will celebrate Jackie Robinson’s memory on Monday:
• All players, managers, coaches and umpires will wear Robinson’s No. 42, which was retired leaguewide in 1997. Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 season, was the last active player to wear No. 42. (Home teams that are off on Monday will wear 42 and have on-field ceremonies on Tuesday.)
• Commemorative sleeve patches will be added to uniforms this year, along with matching insignia on caps. Players, managers and coaches may wear a “Jackie Robinson 100” T-shirt during batting practice.
• The Jackie Robinson Day logo will be on bases and dugout lineup cards, with MLB donating all licensed royalties from the sale of items to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
• Jackie’s wife, Rachel Robinson, founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and their daughter and son, Sharon and David Robinson, will attend Jackie Robinson Day ceremonies at Dodger Stadium. In 2017, the Dodgers unveiled the park’s first sculpture -- Robinson sliding into home plate -- on Jackie Robinson Day.
• MLB hosted the third annual Trailblazer Series at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., this week for approximately 100 13-and-under girls representing 21 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Canada.
• MLB and Scholastic Magazine will announce 10 winners of the “Breaking Barriers: In Sport, In Life” essay contest to honor Robinson’s legacy. It’s for students in grades 4-6 and 7-9 to describe challenges they’ve overcome in their own lives.
• On Sunday in Los Angeles, the Jackie Robinson Foundation previewed the Jackie Robinson Museum, which will open in New York later this year.
Meanwhile, individual clubs will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day in various ways.
• Commissioner Rob Manfred will attend Monday’s Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia and take part in a pregame ceremony that will include a joint choir from three local African-American churches performing “Oh Happy Day” and the national anthem. In addition, members of the Tuskegee Airmen will be recognized.
• In Washington, D.C., the Nationals will honor the contributions of African Americans to baseball and the community. Jackie Robinson Foundation alumni and scholars will participate in the pregame ceremony. Andre “Smokey” Lee, president of Senators Satchel Page Little League and an advocate for youth baseball in D.C., will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
• The White Sox will hold a private screening of the movie “42” for students, with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, first-base coach Daryl Boston and others stopping by.
• The Marlins will host youth organizations and have players, alumni and executives discuss Robinson’s impact on their lives. The Marlins Foundation Legacy Scholarship Program will make a $5,000 contribution to the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship fund.
• Twins front office staff will discuss Robinson’s life with fourth-grade students and honor a group of students who have been nominated by teachers for embodying Robinson’s values.
• The Rangers have invited 25 players from the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy to line up with the Major League team during pregame introductions and the national anthem.
Along the way, everyone -- players, kids, fans -- will learn a bit more about Jackie Robinson and why so many people owe so much to his willingness to break baseball’s color line with dignity and decency.
Robinson retired after the 1956 season and used the final 16 years of his life to advocate for racial fairness. Nine days before his death, at Game 2 of the 1972 World Series, Robinson urged baseball to open its doors for an African American manager.
Two years later, the Indians did just that by hiring Frank Robinson. When he walked the lineup card to home plate for the first time in the 1975 season, he was mindful of another Robinson.
“Jackie opened a door,” he said, “and a lot of us walked through it because of him.”