McClendon proud to wear Robinson's number
ARLINGTON -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon will proudly don Jackie Robinson's No. 42 jersey number for Tuesday night's game against the Rangers. And like every uniformed baseball player, manager and coach paying tribute to Jackie Robinson Day, he'll take an extra minute to think about the road Robinson paved 67 years earlier.
"Jackie meant so much to the game of baseball and obviously to minorities," McClendon said. "He's the main reason I'm sitting here today, because he opened doors that weren't open. It took a lot of courage. So I'll wear it with pride. And hopefully I'll look good in the uniform. I think it's fantastic."
The 55-year-old McClendon played in the Majors from 1987-94 and has been coaching or managing ever since. He was a hitting coach with the Pirates in 1997 when Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. first flip-flopped his No. 24 and wore 42 on the 50th anniversary of the day Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
And McClendon was a hitting coach with the Tigers in 2007 when Griffey asked commissioner Bud Selig if he could wear No. 42 for the Reds on April 15th of that year, the 60th anniversary of Robinson's historic game, even after Selig had retired the number throughout baseball.
Selig said yes that day and two years later, in 2009, made the move to have all uniformed baseball personnel wear No. 42 every April 15th. This is the sixth year of that occurrence and McClendon says it's an important reminder of Robinson's impact.
In McClendon's view, too many young players aren't aware of anything beyond their own experiences.
"There's a lot of that," McClendon said. "I had one of my kids in the cage and was talking to him about Magglio Ordonez and he was like, 'Who was Magglio Ordonez?' So yeah, they don't know a lot about the history. And I don't really blame it all on them.
"I think their generation is a generation that was force-fed iPhones and computers, and everything is now," he said. "There's not much of an appreciation for the past and what it meant, particularly when it comes to baseball and baseball players. The paths that were paved for them, I don't think they really get it or understand it. So yeah, it's good to just give them a little bit of a reminder of what it was like."
Players are definitely aware of Robinson's story, however, particularly on a Mariners team where Griffey played a major role in everyone wearing his number. Felix Hernandez said he's talked to Griffey about that in the past.
"It means a lot," Hernandez said. "Because of that guy, we're here. It's really important and it's an honor to wear No. 42."