Astros join all of MLB in honoring Robinson
Sipp, Carter among Houston players who appreciate what No. 42 did during his career
HOUSTON -- The opportunity to wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42 once a year is good enough for Astros pitcher Tony Sipp, who says wearing Robinson's number on a daily basis would bring an immense amount of pressure to live up to the man who broke baseball's color barrier.
"He handled it best," Sipp said. "Some things are better left untouched."
The Astros and the A's each donned No. 42 jerseys on Wednesday in honor of Jackie Robinson Day around Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1947, history was made when Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in MLB.
"Back then, I couldn't imagine the things he went through and what he did," Astros first baseman Chris Carter said. "I just appreciate what he's done, and I'm grateful for it."
Sipp, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings during the Astros' 6-1 win, said the way Robinson carried himself on and off the field paved the way for thousands of African-American players, and wearing his jersey is a fitting tribute. He said Robinson's actions transcend baseball.
"He sacrificed a lot for us so that I could be where I could be," Sipp said. "Just the things he did and the way he carried himself, you can't talk enough about it."
Former Astros player and general manager Bob Watson -- who also served as MLB's vice president of rules and on-field operations -- suffered racial prejudice while coming through the Minor Leagues in the 1960s. He went from having to stay in different places than white teammates to being the general manager of the Astros and Yankees, and Watson said it couldn't have happened without Robinson.
Watson joined former Astros/Colt .45s players Jimmy Wynn, Enos Cabell, Jose Cruz, J.C. Hartman and J.R. Richard for a pregame reception Wednesday.
"He's a very special person to me," he said. "He opened the door not only for me to play and people of my color, but he opened the door nationally and gave a lot of people opportunities to do something that we were prohibited to do up until that time. As I look back on it, I've had a chance to do things in baseball that I probably wouldn't have been able to do in other walks of life. I wore a number of different hats in the 48 years of being affiliated with Major League Baseball."
In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute. Watson was GM of the Yankees when the number was retired.
"A lot of players didn't know who No. 42 was," Watson said. "I'm not going to tell you some of the names. You would really be shocked. To retire his number is really a significant thing for baseball, the industry and also for the fans. A dad brings his family to the ballpark and the kids ask, 'Who are those numbers out there?' And he gets a chance to explain who No. 42 was."