LOS ANGELES -- Every team in Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, but it was Robinson's own team that welcomed his family and honored a long-held dream of his in a ceremony recognizing of one of the most important figures in both baseball and civil rights
LOS ANGELES -- Every team in Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, but it was Robinson's own team that welcomed his family and honored a long-held dream of his in a ceremony recognizing of one of the most important figures in both baseball and civil rights history.
The Dodgers welcomed Rachel and Sharon Robinson, Robinson's wife and daughter, as guests of honor in the team's pregame tribute, which also included Robinson's teammate, Don Newcombe, team owner Magic Johnson, and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, the first African-American manager in MLB history. The Dodgers capped the special day with a 7-3 win over the rival Giants.
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Frank Robinson's presence was especially meaningful as Jackie Robinson had called for a black manager in a pregame speech at the 1972 World Series, just nine days before his death.
"I'm extremely proud and pleased to be here this afternoon, but must admit I am going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third-base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball," Robinson said in the speech, which was played during the ceremony.
After the video had played, Frank Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Dave Roberts, one of two African-American managers in the league and the first in Dodgers history.
Roberts had discussed Robinson's importance before the game.
"Just from the stories that I've heard, I can't even try imagine what he endured on a daily basis, having fights with teammates and opponents," Roberts said. "To do that, to still perform, to keep his chin up, to keep going, and understand the bigger picture of why he was put on this earth, it's fascinating to me, it really is. What did he say? He said something about where I don't care if you like me, but I want to make sure I'm respected. It's pretty powerful."
The Dodgers also announced before the game that the previously announced statue of Robinson would feature the second baseman sliding into home, a difficult play meant to serve as a metaphor for the endeavor of black players reaching Major League Baseball.
Robinson's impact has been felt in so many ways, but it's difficult to find a place displaying as much of that impact as a stadium where not the only home team, not only the visiting team, but as many as 40,000 fans wear his number 42, thanks to a replica jersey giveaway at the stadium.
Jack Baer is an associate reporter for MLB.com.