When asked recently what her late husband would have thought about the way his legacy is being celebrated and carried on, Rachel Robinson said, "I think he'd be very proud. ... He felt that if he can inspire future generations, then we're really doing something."
It is time again to inspire, time to wear No. 42, time to look deep within, time to celebrate the impact Jackie Robinson still has on people's lives.
Major League Baseball will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Monday, honoring the legacy of the Hall of Famer who broke baseball's color barrier when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. At a time when public interest in Robinson's story will be even greater than usual, thanks to a major motion picture, many activities are scheduled for a day that has become one of the most anticipated on the big league calendar.
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.
"Jackie Robinson running onto Ebbets Field is not only the most important and powerful moment in baseball history, but it also changed the course of American history," Selig said. "Jackie's courage and perseverance made it possible for African-Americans and players of all races and ethnicities to compete on the same field."
"We are delighted once again to take part in the commemoration recognizing my husband's barrier breaking achievements made some 66 years ago," Rachel Robinson said. "We are particularly proud that through the efforts of MLB and the movie '42,' a new generation will not only learn about Jack, but it will also spark them to think about what they can do in their lives to make significant differences in their own communities."
Jackie Robinson Day will feature youth-focused events and on-field pregame ceremonies in ballparks throughout the Majors, including a celebration featuring the Robinson family (Rachel and their children, David and Sharon) at Dodger Stadium, home to the only franchise he played for in The Show.
Home clubs will feature jeweled bases and lineup cards, and a video will be shown in every park highlighting Robinson's story and nine values: commitment, citizenship, courage, determination, excellence, justice, persistence, teamwork and integrity.
Any clubs that are off on Monday will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday. Clubs playing on the road on Monday or Tuesday will hold celebrations during a homestand later in the month.
For the fifth year in a row, all players and on-field personnel will wear No. 42. It is a tradition started by Ken Griffey Jr., one that spread and became symbolic. There will be no names on jerseys on Monday, only the number. This also will mark the final time that an active player will wear his own No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is planning to retire after this season, wore 42 before the number was retired throughout baseball, so he was allowed to wear it for the remainder of his career.
One No. 42 jersey from each club will be signed and put up for bid through the MLB.com Auction, with proceeds benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The foundation, established in 1973, provides four-year college scholarships, graduate school grants and extensive mentoring to a diverse group of academically distinguished students who show leadership potential. MLB and its clubs currently sponsor more than 80 Jackie Robinson Scholars.
MLB will hold two clinics for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) youth from the Greater Los Angeles area, on Saturday at Angel Stadium and on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, both administered by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
RBI is the MLB initiative designed to give young people from underserved communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic success, teach the value of teamwork and impart other important life lessons.
The Angel Stadium clinic will be staged for 250 boys and girls from Angels RBI and will feature Hall of Famer Rod Carew, Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck, Angels bullpen coach Steve Soliz and Sharon Robinson.
The Dodger Stadium clinic will host 250 kids from Los Angeles-area RBI programs, and it will be coached by Dodgers alumni Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Al Downing, Kenny Landreaux, Lou Johnson, Dennis Powell and Derrel Thomas. The clinic will feature appearances by Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer and MLB executive vice president of baseball development; Don Newcombe, Dodgers legend and 1956 National League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner; and Sharon Robinson.
MLB will present two private screeningS of the film "42" for participants of Angels RBI and several Los Angeles-area RBI programs. Saturday's screening will be held at Rave Cinemas 15 in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles and Sunday's will be at AMC Orange 30 in Orange, Calif.
Sharon Robinson, MLB's educational programming consultant and vice chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, will visit students on Monday morning at a school attended by her father -- Washington Middle School in Pasadena (Washington Junior High School in his day) -- to discuss her new book, "Jackie Robinson: American Hero" and the Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life program. The school is participating in a special Breaking Barriers essay contest in which she will present one student with a gift.
Breaking Barriers features an essay contest that recognizes students for their efforts to overcome personal challenges using the values exemplified by Robinson himself. Breaking Barriers was developed by MLB, Sharon Robinson and Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company. Since its inception in 1997, Breaking Barriers has reached more than 22 million children and 2.9 million educators in the continental U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
Through the Breaking Barriers essay contest, students in grades 4-9 submit a piece about barriers or obstacles they have faced or are still facing, and how they overcame those obstacles using the aforementioned nine values demonstrated by Robinson.
MLB and Sharon Robinson will announce the winners of the 2013 essay contest on Jackie Robinson Day. Following the announcement, she will visit select winners' schools to congratulate and recognize them.
MLB Network will air a special episode of "Studio 42 with Bob Costas" featuring Newcombe, who will discuss his former teammate and the "42" movie, along with cast members Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey) and Chadwick Boseman (Robinson). The episode will air at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday and 10 p.m. ET on Sunday.
As Newcombe recalls in the interview: "Jackie said, 'We're bitter now, but we're going to change one letter in the word bitter. We're going to change the 'i' to 'e,' and things are going to get better. We have to make it work, though. We have to make it work.' And we did make it work. We made history. We made baseball what it is today in a very big way, but we still haven't reached the point where we need to be."
In the interview, taped last week at Dodger Stadium, Newcombe comments on Robinson's life both on and off the field, and Boseman and Ford talk about what drew them to the film and how they prepared to play such larger-than-life characters.
Boseman details his Spring Training-like practices, and Ford describes studying Rickey's mannerisms by watching his appearance on an episode of the game show "What's My Line?" in 1959.
"That set in for me that I am responsible for … portraying all of the characteristics and qualities and principles that the man lived under," Boseman said of portraying an icon. "I also knew that there were a lot of people who viewed him as a hero, that know him very well, and would be let down if I didn't live up to those expectations."
MLB.com will have complete coverage of the events at each Major League ballpark with photographs, video highlights and interviews, and stories from beat and national reporters, including Meggie Zahneis, the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay winner, who earned a breakthrough job at MLB Advanced Media. In addition, Jackie Robinson Day events will be covered across MLB.com, Cut4.com and social media platforms, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.
MLB.com has redesigned Iam42.com to be a custom Instagram page where fans can share their thoughts and photos in support of Jackie Robinson Day, including using the hashtag #Jackie42 to unify the league-wide commemorations.
Commissioner Selig and MLB have celebrated Robinson's legacy in a unified, league-wide show of support for many years, including retiring his number throughout the league in 1997 and dedicating April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day each year since 2004.
MLB aims to educate all fans about Robinson, his accomplishments and his legacy through the RBI program, Breaking Barriers and other initiatives, including Diverse Business Partners and the MLB Urban Youth Academies. For more information, visit MLBCommunity.org.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.