Educated on legacy, Rays, Sox honor Jackie

April 15th, 2017

BOSTON -- Rays ace Chris Archer was 18 years old and playing rookie ball with the Gulf Coast League Indians when he began reading Jackie Robinson's autobiography.

Archer had seen the movies and documentaries on Robinson, but wanted to learn more details about his life in and out of baseball.

"I became really impressed when I read his autobiography and how active he was in the civil rights movement and all the distress going on as he played," Archer said. "To go and march the streets with Martin Luther King Jr. and the other activists, that's impressive."

Archer wasn't on the hill against the Red Sox for Jackie Robinson Day at Fenway Park on Saturday, but he was able to take in the festivities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. All players wore No. 42, while four Jackie Robinson scholars announced "Play ball" before the game.

• Check out how players are honoring Jackie

"This is all very meaningful, just for him doing everything that he went through and just opening up the doors for everybody else," Red Sox left-hander said. "It takes a very special person to be able to do that, and he stepped up to the challenge."

Just like Archer, Red Sox center fielder wanted to learn as much as he could about Robinson growing up. While Bradley knew small details about Robinson, as he got older he decided to learn with his own eyes and ears by watching documentaries and movies and reading books.

"He was a pioneer," Bradley said. "Not just someone who changed the game of baseball, but all of the sports in general."

At full strength, the Rays and Red Sox each have four African-American players on their respective 25-man rosters.

"You look at the game today and how the ethnicities have grown, the African-American totals are down. We are fortunate enough to have the players we do in our uniform," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Robinson's breakthrough, which we can't even fathom, is significant."

On 2017 Opening Day rosters, the percentage of Major Leaguers who are black, African-American or African-Canadian was 7.7 percent. It was 8.3 percent in 2016.  

Major League Baseball spent approximately $30 million in '16 on youth development for underserved communities.

"They are doing a great job, but we won't see those effects for another 10 to 15 years," Archer said. "If a kid is drafted now and takes his normal progression, it will take about five years, and then say another five to establish himself. It is going to take time."

However, combining the percentage of African-American players and foreign-born players, the game is reaching unprecedented levels of diversity at 35.8 percent.

"He broke the color barrier, not just the black American barrier," Archer said. "You see a lot of other races and ethnicities because of it. That's what it's all about."