Across the country, Jackie will be honored
Seventy-five years to the day after he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson will have his name on a New York City street sign, his number on one of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers and his memory honored on Major League and Little League fields across the country.
From Robinson’s birthplace in Cairo, Ga., to New York City, where he changed the game and the country, to Los Angeles, where he grew up and where his Dodgers reside, Robinson’s importance to sport and society will be celebrated Friday with the most ambitious Jackie Robinson Day yet.
Here are the details at each location:
IN NEW YORK
Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre will be among the baseball luminaries joining Commissioner Rob Manfred and Sonya Pankey, Jackie and Rachel Robinson’s eldest grandchild and consultant to MLB, in highly visible activities honoring Robinson’s historic April 15, 1947, debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Big Apple.
At 7:30 a.m. ET, in Times Square’s pedestrian plaza at 44th Street and Seventh Avenue, Griffey, Rivera, Torre, CC Sabathia, Willie Randolph and Butch Huskey will be on hand as up to 50 kids representing each of the five New York City boroughs will participate in a special Play Ball baseball and softball event. Programs will include Brooklyn’s BedStuy Sluggers, Manhattan’s DREAM Charter Schools, the Bronx’s Castle Hill Little League & RBI Program, Staten Island’s Mid-Island Little League and Queens’ Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of Queens.
Following the Play Ball event, at 9:30 a.m., Manfred, Pankey and Griffey will be among the speakers at a news conference in Duffy Square, during which New York City street signage temporarily renaming a portion of 42nd Street as “Jackie Robinson Way” will be revealed. The signage will be officially placed at 42nd and Broadway in the afternoon and will then head to the National Baseball of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., following Jackie Robinson Day.
At noon, Sabathia, Rivera, Torre, Huskey and Jackie’s granddaughter, Meta Robinson, will attend the Empire State Building lighting ceremony. The world-famous tower will feature blue and white lights with the No. 42 rotating on display.
AT EVERY MLB GAME
This year’s celebration marks not just the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s debut but also the 25th anniversary of then-Commissioner Bud Selig’s announcement that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired across MLB. Ten years after that landmark 1997 decision, Griffey requested and received permission to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, and a few other players took part. And in 2009, the practice of every player, coach and manager wearing No. 42 on April 15 became a new tradition.
That tradition will continue this year, but with a twist. In honor of the 75th anniversary, not only will all on-field personnel wear No. 42, but that 42 will be featured in Dodger Blue, regardless of a team’s colors.
It’s a small but meaningful tip of the cap to the man and the team that changed everything.
IN LOS ANGELES
Jackie’s widow, Rachel, who will turn 100 this year, will be in attendance at Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers are set to take on the Reds at 10:10 p.m. ET.
Prior to the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will bring his entire team to the Robinson statue that resides at the main, center-field entrance to pay tribute to the baseball icon. Players Alliance representatives and former All-Stars Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson are also expected to attend.
IN CAIRO, GA.
Cairo, where Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919, will have a special visitor on Jackie Robinson Day -- the World Series trophy. The Braves are sending their 2021 prize on a road trip so that the kids at the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club of Cairo-Grady County (the only Boys & Girls Club in the country named after Jackie) can enjoy it.
OTHER TRIBUTES OF NOTE
In a unique call to action to the youth baseball and softball community, MLB has provided guidelines to have community leagues -- including those in MLB and Minor League club markets, Little League, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Pony, Dixie, Ripken and other leagues -- to play a total of 42 innings over the weekend of April 15-17. Leagues will share content of their games (using the hashtag #Jackie42) on social media, and many will be recognized on @PlayBall (on Twitter and Instagram) and PlayBall.org.
On MLB Network, a new feature, “Remembering Jackie,” hosted by Harold Reynolds, will include new interviews with Selig, President Bill Clinton, Bo Jackson and Spike Lee about Robinson’s legacy in baseball and society. The feature will air during “MLB Central” and “MLB Tonight.”