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New statue depicts Jackie as player, man

MLB pioneer will be honored at Dodger Stadium on Saturday
MLB.com @RichardJustice

This is how you honor Jackie Robinson. First, you depict the baseball player to reflect his aggressiveness and fearlessness.

"That's what he brought to Major League Baseball," said his daughter, Sharon.

This is how you honor Jackie Robinson. First, you depict the baseball player to reflect his aggressiveness and fearlessness.

"That's what he brought to Major League Baseball," said his daughter, Sharon.

Jackie Robinson's ultimate legacy is so much larger than that, but baseball was where his journey began.

And then you depict the man. You tell the world what he stood for and how he changed the world.

That's the story the Dodgers will tell Saturday on Jackie Robinson Day -- the 70th anniversary of Robinson's first game -- by unveiling the first sculpture at Dodger Stadium.

It will be in the Left Field Reserve Plaza, one of the highest-traveled areas of the ballpark, and it will depict Robinson sliding into home plate, cleats up, arms outstretched.

Video: Smith discusses new Jackie Robinson statue

The other part of his life will be told on the base of the 700-pound bronze sculpture on which a sampling of his words will be embedded.

Among them is this one, a favorite of Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow:

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

And two others:

"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

"There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free."

In reflecting on the two legacies of her dad, Sharon Robinson said she's looking forward to seeing sculptor Branly Cadet's final version, and she thinks he got it just right.

"I love the way the sculpture depicts [my dad] in his aggressive stance, going into a slide," Robinson said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "That's what he brought to Major League Baseball and to the Dodgers -- to be more aggressive baserunners.

"The quotes bring in the humanitarian approach to life and his emphasis on social change. I think this sculpture brings the two things together."

Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color line on April 15, 1947, stands as one of the proudest moments in the sport's history and a milestone moment for the United States.

He endured threats, physical retaliation and an assortment of other cruelties, in part because he understood the impact of a black man playing a game that had been all-white would have on the world.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Robinson he helped lay the groundwork for the American civil rights movement by forcing the country to see the world in a way it had never seen it before.

Baseball's annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day began in 2004. Robinson's No. 42 was retired in 1997, but on Saturday, every player, coach, manager and umpire will wear it for the ninth straight year.

"It's emotional," Sharon Robinson said. "My dad was a humble person. Here he is 70 years later being recognized. He used to come home and say, 'They gave me a standing ovation,' and [he] was so shocked. I don't know what he'd think of this.

"This year it's more emotional, because my mom is turning 95. I'm so grateful she's still with us, and that's going to make it more emotional. To have my brother [David] here ... It's very special to have the statue unveiling with all of our family. Every year is special, but this one is particularly special.

"Branly came and visited us in New York and told us of his vision. He wanted action and wanted it to be his rookie year, that it would be a large sculpture. It was the artist, and we respected his vision. But we appreciated him coming to us."

From the beginning, the Robinson family wanted Jackie Robinson Day to be more than symbolic. They've seen that happen on a number of levels, including a general awareness of who Jackie Robinson really was and what he contributed to making America a better place.

"I travel a lot and visit with children," Sharon Robinson said. "There's so much visibility on that one day that it allows a discussion of parents and kids and baseball fans and people in general.

"Today it's a blending of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and its scholars and alums. Some clubs are honoring community activists and living Negro Leaguers from their area. Each club seems to be doing something to make it special. Everyone should be able to celebrate it.

"It's not looking back as much as feeling inspired. Yes, there are still a lot of struggles in this world. It's a very complicated place. Jackie Robinson showed us you can stand up and be respected and play great ball under tremendous pressure. All those things inspire us."

Video: Sharon Robinson on value of Jackie Robinson Day

Sharon Robinson visited the Lincoln Memorial last year, and she said such trips bring a flood of emotions, understanding that Jackie Robinson was both a father and an American hero.

"It's emotional to be part of American history and to know your father had a significant part in bringing equality and bringing justice," she said. "You're still involved, and your mother is still involved. It's good. We have a lot of work to do."

Statue details

Depicted: A young Jackie Robinson in his rookie season, 1947, sliding into home plate in a salute to his aggressive and ambitious playing style.
Material: Bronze
Height: 77 inches
Weight: 700 pounds, secured with a steel rod that adds approximately 150 pounds.
Sculptor: Branly Cadet in Oakland
Base height: 30 inches
Base weight: 34,375 pounds
Base dimensions: Approximately 13 feet by 9 feet
Base material: Granite, manufactured by Coldspring in Cold Spring, Minn.

Main inscription

Jackie Robinson - Brooklyn Dodgers 1947-1956

On April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jack Roosevelt Robinson, at the age of 28, became the first African-American in the 20th century to play for a Major League Baseball team.

A dynamic player who appeared in six World Series during his 10-year career, Robinson in 1947 was named baseball's first Rookie of the Year, an award which today bears his name. Robinson won National League MVP honors in 1949 after hitting a league-best .342 with 37 steals.

He stole home 19 times during the regular season and once in the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees.

Quotes on statue base

• "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

• "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me…All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

• "There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.

Los Angeles Dodgers