CINCINNATI -- As Reds and Cardinals players arrived at Great American Ball Park on Sunday, the jerseys with that now hallowed number were hanging at the lockers.Everyone in Major League Baseball understands the significance of No. 42, and what it means to wear it on Jackie Robinson Day, the 71st
CINCINNATI -- As Reds and Cardinals players arrived at Great American Ball Park on Sunday, the jerseys with that now hallowed number were hanging at the lockers.
Everyone in Major League Baseball understands the significance of No. 42, and what it means to wear it on Jackie Robinson Day, the 71st anniversary of when he broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
"I would say it is my favorite day of the year," Reds reliever Jared Hughes said. "Jackie Robinson changed the game. He brought unity to baseball. It's really special to be able to wear No. 42."
As has been tradition each April 15th since 2009, MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing Jackie's iconic Number "42." For 2018, there was additional on-field uniform elements, including a commemorative patch on all team caps and jersey sleeves, socks emblazoned with "42," and a brand new lightweight hooded fleece for batting practice and dugout wear, also featuring the "42" logo.
Cardinals right fielder William Fowler had specially designed spikes in Brooklyn Dodgers colors to honor Robinson.
"It's a huge deal especially being African American," Fowler said. "You look at the numbers, they were down and I guess they came up a little bit. It's a step in the right direction. And honoring Jackie today is something I never take lightly. If Jackie didn't do what he did, and it took a special individual to do that, I might not be here playing."
On the field before Sunday's game, the Reds celebrated Jackie Robinson Day in a variety of ways. Journey Steel, a minority/female-owned business, was presented with the 2018 Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award.
Eric Kearney, President/CEO of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, threw a ceremonial first pitch.
At the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy on Saturday, eight high school and 10 softball teams played games to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. Chuck Harmon, the Reds' first African-American player, and Reds Hall of Famer Dave Parker were honored during pregame ceremonies. All of the high school players also wore No. 42 jerseys.
For the Cardinals, April 15 has additional significance because Sunday marked the 59th anniversary of Hall of Famer Bob Gibson's first Major League game. St. Louis launched a fan engagement campaign called #CompleteGamer to honor the first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Gibson played all 17 seasons of his career with the Cardinals, and although he is the franchise leader with 251 victories -- he actually had more complete games with 255.
A nine-time All-Star, Gibson was also a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner in 1968 and '70, the '68 NL Most Valuable Player, and has nine Gold Gloves and two World Series MVPs in 1964 and '67.
MLB will donate all proceeds from the sale of the game-worn items to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Its scholarship program provides four years of financial assistance and direct program services annually to 225 students attending 100 colleges and universities across the country.
"I don't know if they really grasp everything he went through. Any time you get a chance to sit down and read up on him, it would be good to do," Fowler said.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation is also building the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York, set to open in 2019, and its Museum Legacy Campaign has raised over $25 million.
"The guys that paved the way for where we are today, there's nothing we shouldn't do for them," Hughes said. "I feel like Jackie Robinson should not only get a museum, he should have a museum at every field in the country. He is the reason the game continues to grow, because of people like Jackie Robinson who break barriers and make the game better."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.