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Where it began: Jackie honored in NYC, beyond

Players, teams across baseball pay tribute to Civil Rights legend
April 15, 2018

NEW YORK -- Sunday marked the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, and for the 10th straight season, players throughout the game donned Robinson's iconic No. 42. At Citi Field, steps from where fans passed through the Ebbets Field-inspired Jackie Robinson Rotunda on the way

NEW YORK -- Sunday marked the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, and for the 10th straight season, players throughout the game donned Robinson's iconic No. 42. At Citi Field, steps from where fans passed through the Ebbets Field-inspired Jackie Robinson Rotunda on the way to their seats, bearers of '42' included Brewers left-hander Brent Suter, who grew up a white kid in suburban Cincinnati but said he participated proudly because, "he wasn't just an impetus for change for baseball, but society as a whole."
For Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter and an educational consultant for MLB, it was also personal.
"It gives us a chance to reflect on our time with Dad," she said. "Yesterday, I reminded [her brother] David about when my dad brought home Dr. [Martin Luther] King's letter from a Birmingham jail and suggested that we read it, and we would discuss it. I was 13 and David was 11. What did he expect?
"Obviously, we couldn't interpret it all. So David and I got into a discussion of, 'Do they have paper in jail?'"
She paused to laugh.
"So, it gives us a chance to remember our favorite moments with him," Robinson said.
For the rest of baseball, it was a chance to remember a giant of the sport and to raise funds for the Jackie Robinson Foundation. In addition to wearing Robinson's retired No. 42, there were additional on-field uniform elements for 2018, including a commemorative patch on all team caps and jersey sleeves, socks emblazoned with '42,' and a new lightweight hooded fleece for batting practice and dugout wear, also featuring the '42' logo.

MLB will donate all proceeds from the sale of such items to the foundation. The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) is a public, non-profit organization that perpetuates Robinson's memory by giving a four-year scholarship in his name and providing leadership development for minority college students as well as through building the Jackie Robinson Museum. The museum will commemorate the life of Jackie Robinson as an athlete, activist and icon, illuminating his long-lasting impact across society through state-of-the-art exhibits, precious artifacts, film and other media. The National Jackie Robinson Museum Legacy Campaign has raised over $25 million and the museum is set to open in 2019.

The Major League Baseball Players Association announced a $42,000 grant from the Players Trust to the JRF for the third straight year.

"To pay homage to that man, it's an honor," Brewers first baseman Eric Thames said.
Thames is one of Milwaukee's three African American players, with outfielder Lorenzo Cain and reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who were among the 68 African Americans on Major League rosters for Opening Day. That was up slightly from 62 African American players at the start of 2017, according to MLB's annual report on diversity in the game.
"Actually, I'm encouraged," Robinson said. "Not just by the uptick, but from the fact we are seeing some of the programs producing players that are going into the Draft from our academies and our RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] Program. ... Commissioner [Rob] Manfred and the whole MLB family is so committed to young people, and bringing baseball back to our suburban areas as well as our urban areas. I think that is going to have a positive impact on baseball in general."
Robinson also mentioned the globalization of the game, and pointed out that her father's legacy wasn't simply in breaking a barrier for African Americans but for the many Latin American players who have come to the Major Leagues.
"I've heard a lot about him," said Mets infielder and Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, whose walk-off home run gave the Mets a 3-2 win on Sunday.
"When Curtis Granderson was here, he talked to us about Jackie Robinson. He's immortal. You've definitely got to appreciate those who gave us this opportunity. Today was a special day."
Fourteen years after the first Jackie Robinson Day in 2004, Sharon Robinson is convinced the initiative still has impact.
"Each year, you see the clubs doing something slightly different," Robinson said. "I know Miami wanted to acknowledge Parkland. So the issues are there, and the issues are complicated. They can look at social justice issues, equity issues, whatever they choose, and link it in to Jackie Robinson Day to make it contemporary."
Below is a look at how Robinson's legacy was celebrated throughout the rest of Major League Baseball:
• The Rays recognized nine individuals selected as 2018 Jackie Robinson Community Champions and honored the family of U.S. Army Captain Riley Pitts, the first African-American-commissioned officer to receive the Medal of Honor. Rays manager Kevin Cash said baseball "wouldn't be what it is today without [Robinson's] contributions." More >
Cameron Maybin relished the opportunity to pay tribute to Robinson by donning No. 42, the number Maybin wore proudly for years with his youth baseball travel team in North Carolina. Maybin and teammate Lewis Brinson hosted 15 kids who participated in an art project at Northwest Boys & Girls Club. More >
• Besides enjoying the honor of wearing No. 42, the Reds celebrated Jackie Robinson Day by saluting a top minority-owned business and its leaders. The Cardinals also recognized the anniversary of the debut of another great African-American player -- pitcher Bob Gibson -- by launching a fan awareness campaign about his career. More >
• Royals manager Ned Yost called Robinson breaking the color barrier, "the most courageous thing in sports." Fifty youth players also received their first new baseball gloves from Royals Charities and broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre's Gloves for Kids program. More >
• After inclement weather postponed Sunday's game, the Cubs and Braves are expected to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on May 14, when they play a makeup game at Wrigley Field. More >
• Long before the gates opened on Sunday, Matt Kemp went up to the Reserved Level at Dodger Stadium for his first up-close look at the Robinson statue that was unveiled on Jackie Robinson Day last year. More >
• The Padres honored Robinson with a pregame tribute on their left-field video board prior to their matchup against the Giants. "League-wide, it's cool that we all unify, come together and recognize what Jackie Robinson meant for the game and for this country," said Padres right-hander Tyson Ross. "He broke through the color barrier that set the pace for the civil rights movement and the equality that we all share now." More >
• The Nationals honored Robinson with a pregame video tribute, and U.S. Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game against the Rockies. "John Lewis is John Lewis; the name speaks for itself," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "He's just one of those people who people respect and admire." More >

• In Boston, Jackie Robinson scholars were recognized during pregame festivities before the Red Sox's afternoon contest against the Orioles. "It's very special, for what Jackie did and meant to the game of baseball and just everyday life," said Red Sox pitcher David Price. "The times that he went through, the adversity that he endured both on and off the field, that speaks volumes to the type of person that he was, and everything that he did for everybody was very special." More >
• The Mariners hosted a pregame ceremony prior to Sunday's game against the A's and presented the Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award to Cochran, Inc., a female-owned electrical and technology infrastructure contractor that has worked at Safeco Field. Players on both clubs used social media to share their thoughts on Robinson's legacy. "This man is the reason I play," A's catcher Bruce Maxwell said of Robinson. More >
• Prior to their Sunday night contest against the Rangers, the Astros hosted a pregame reception featuring Jackie Robinson scholars and alumni, former Astros players and several Houston community leaders. Judson Robinson, president and CEO of the Houston Area Urban League, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Additionally, members of the Astros Youth Academy took the field with the Astros players prior to the game.
"We learned the struggles, the sacrifice, all the things that had to happen for him to be in that position, and all the courage it took for him to do what he did was something," Astros outfielder George Springer said of Robinson. "It's remarkable, in my opinion, to do what he did in that time period, and to get the recognition he and his family get today is deserved." More >

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.