Gomez reflects on Jackie's effect beyond US
Dominican center fielder wears No. 42 along with other players, coaches
MILWAUKEE -- Dominican-born Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez said donning a uniform affixed with No. 42 meant just as much to him as to his African-American teammates.
Tuesday was Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball, marking the 67th anniversary of Robinson breaking the game's color barrier when he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Brewers and Cardinals players and coaches all wore Robinson's No. 42 at Miller Park.
"He opened a big door for us, too," Gomez said. "Jackie Robinson was an African-American guy, but they followed him in the Dominican and other Latin countries. They know who is Jackie Robinson, just like they know Roberto Clemente. He's always going to be appreciated for how he played the game and how he respected the game and what he did for the game."
For his contributions to the game, Robinson on Tuesday was honored throughout baseball. At Miller Park, fans watched a video detailing Robinson's story.
Gomez was particularly moved when he saw the film "42" last year.
"I felt bad," Gomez said. "But back then, that's what it is. That's why it was so important he opened the door for [people of color], saying, like, 'We are good, too. We can play the game.'
"Now, when you play the game, all that matters is, can you play? Can you win? It doesn't matter if you are from China, Japan, the Dominican, Venezuela, Canada or you're American. It doesn't matter. All that matters is play, and give a good show to the people who pay a lot of money to watch you play the game."
Gomez loved Robinson's style of play because, he said, Robinson "was so aggressive, so passionate."
Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron and hitting coach Johnny Narron heard about that passion throughout their childhoods from their "Uncle Sam," who was actually their grandmother's brother. Sam Narron played professionally from 1934-49 and was a protégé of Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, the executive who signed Robinson. Sam Narron got to know Robinson while serving as the Dodgers' bullpen catcher in 1949-50.
"Mr. Rickey is way overlooked in this, I believe," Jerry Narron said. "I think Mr. Rickey's faith had as much to do with it as anything, being a Christian and believing everybody was created equal and should be treated equal. He was hated and ridiculed and everything else at the time. He went against a lot of people to sign Jackie Robinson and bring him to the big leagues."
Asked what it meant to him to wear No. 42 and honor Robinson's legacy, Narron said, "It's the way it should be."
Earlier in the day, Gomez used his Instagram account to express his admiration:
"To me today is one of the greatest and most special days in baseball," Gomez wrote. "It reminds me one of the main reasons that I and many others are here today and for that I am very grateful. Thank you is not enough words to say to this iconic legend. #Forever42 #Jackie42."