Indians pay tribute to trailblazing Robinson
CLEVELAND -- Hanging inside each locker at Progressive Field on Tuesday was a jersey bearing a number that carries more meaning than any other in baseball: No. 42.
That is the number that belonged to Jackie Robinson and once each year Major League Baseball players wear it on their backs in honor of his legacy. Jackie Robinson Day was Monday, the anniversary of when Robinson broke down baseball's color barrier in 1947, but the Indians had a scheduled day off. 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.
"That was a good idea," center fielder Michael Bourn said of wearing No. 42 each season. "Without him, who knows where African Americans would be in baseball? There's a lot of people who have been able to play because of him. He had to endure a lot of pain and a lot of things that he probably didn't want to, but for our sake, he stepped on that field and he did it.
"I like it. It's a special day in history. Every year, I know myself, I like to play on Jackie Robinson Day. It's always a special day to play on."
Beyond wearing No. 42, Cleveland's planned pregame celebration for Robinson included a special video tribute and an on-field presentation to recognize Major League Baseball's Diverse Business Partners program.
"I think it's awesome that we embrace it," manager Terry Francona said. "I like the idea that hopefully we're being respectful of what he accomplished, but at the same time, I hope we're recognizing that that was awful."
Francona said he also understood why many people believe Larry Doby's number should also be retired by Major League Baseball. Doby became the first African-American ballplayer in the American League when he debuted with the Indians on July 5, 1947.
"For a guy that came along right after [Robinson]," Francona said, "and probably endured every bit as much, you don't hear much. But that's the way our society is."