A version of this story was originally published in April 2020.
Jackie Robinson is an unmatched figure in baseball history. When he broke the game's color barrier on April 15, 1947, it was a monumental moment not only on the field, but also in world history. Since 2004, MLB has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day every April 15, and as we approach that date again, here's a look at the top 20 Jackie Robinson Day moments from over the years.
20) 2004: Selig declares April 15 "Jackie Robinson Day" across MLB
Commissioner Bud Selig, along with Sharon Robinson (daughter of Jackie and Rachel Robinson) and Leonard C. Coleman, the chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, announced that April 15 would be celebrated annually as "Jackie Robinson Day" across Major League Baseball. Seven years earlier, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier by starting at second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Selig announced that Robinson's number 42 would be retired in perpetuity.
19) 2019: Pederson launches walk-off homer to cap Dodgers' comeback win
It's only fitting that the Dodgers are 13-3 on Jackie Robinson Day, and their most recent win was a dramatic one in 2019. Trailing, 3-2, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning against the Reds at Dodger Stadium, David Freese walked and Joc Pederson connected for a two-run, walk-off homer to right field. It was the first walk-off home run of Pederson's career and lifted the Dodgers to a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati.
18) 2017: Santana tosses one-hit shutout for Twins
Ervin Santana had a resurgent season in 2017, when he posted a 3.28 ERA over 33 starts for the Twins, leading the Majors with five complete games and three shutouts. One of those shutouts came on Jackie Robinson Day, when he stymied the White Sox at Target Field, giving up just one hit while walking one and striking out eight in Minnesota's 6-0 victory.
17) 2006: Smoltz throws a four-hit shutout
Even at age 38, John Smoltz was a dominant force on the mound, and he demonstrated that on Jackie Robinson Day in 2006, when he shut down the Padres in Atlanta. The future Hall of Famer need just 103 pitches to complete a shutout of San Diego on four hits, en route to another great season in which he posted a 3.49 ERA over 35 starts.
16) 2011: Rangers tie AL record by turning six double plays in nine-inning game
In a fitting tribute to Robinson, who helped turn countless double plays as a second baseman, the Rangers tied an American League record by turning six of them in a nine-inning game on Jackie Robinson Day in 2011. Texas accomplished the feat against the Yankees during a 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium. Starter Matt Harrison induced a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Alex Rodriguez in the first, a 4-6-3 double play from Mark Teixeira in the third, another 4-6-3 from Robinson Cano in the fourth, a pair of 1-6-3 double-plays in the fifth and sixth and a 4-6-3 off the bat of Nick Swisher in the eighth.
15) 2006: Rachel Robinson participates in pregame ceremony at Shea
In a very special pregame ceremony on Jackie Robinson Day in 2006, the Mets welcomed Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, back to Shea Stadium prior to their game against the Brewers. A video tribute to Jackie was played on the scoreboard, and afterward Rachel addressed the crowd from in front of the pitcher's mound with MLB chief operating officer Bob DuPuy and Mets manager Willie Randolph.
14) 2005: Dodgers wear Brooklyn throwback uniforms from 1947, Lowe throws shutout
The Dodgers wore replicas of the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform Robinson wore when breaking the color barrier in 1947. Veteran right-hander Derek Lowe was the hero in this game, pitching a four-hit shutout of the Padres in a 4-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.
13) 2015: Civil Rights Game at Dodger Stadium
The Dodgers hosted the annual Civil Rights Game on Jackie Robinson Day in 2015, and Los Angeles jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the Mariners on RBI singles by Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke in the first inning. The Dodgers never looked back, adding RBI singles later in the contest by Adrián González and Joc Pederson to back a strong start from Brett Anderson, who gave up two runs over five innings in the 5-2 victory.
12) 2016: Sale shuts out Rays on two hits
In his final season with the White Sox, Chris Sale was utterly dominant in Chicago's 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. The left-hander yielded just two singles, walked none and struck out nine. The game remained scoreless until the top of the ninth, when Melky Cabrera broke the stalemate with an RBI single.
11) 2017: Sabathia gets 225th win at Yankee Stadium against Cardinals
CC Sabathia was brilliant over 7 1/3 innings against St. Louis, giving up one run on three hits while walking one and striking out six. The veteran left-hander picked up his 225th win in the process. He finished his career with a record of 251-161 and a 3.74 ERA over 19 years. His 251 wins rank 47th all-time, tied with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
10) 2018: Thor strikes out eight straight, Flores belts walk-off homer
Noah Syndergaard tied a Major League record by fanning eight straight batters during the Mets' 3-2 walk-off victory over the Brewers at Citi Field. He ended up going 5 1/3 innings, yielding an unearned run on two hits, walking one and striking out 11 on 101 pitches.
Wilmer Flores was the hero at the plate, smashing a walk-off homer to left-center field in the ninth.
9) 2019: Yelich launches three homers vs. Cards
Christian Yelich has blossomed into a superstar over the past few years, and the reigning National League MVP enjoyed his first career three-homer game on Jackie Robinson Day in 2019. He drove in seven of Milwaukee's runs in a 10-7 victory over St. Louis at Miller Park, hitting a three-run shot off Dakota Hudson in the second inning, another three-run shot off Mike Mayers in the sixth, and a solo blast off John Brebbia in the eighth.
8) 2007: Players start wearing No. 42
Beginning on April 15, 2007, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, players began wearing the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. It started with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. asking Rachel Robinson for permission to don the number on April 15, and Commissioner Bud Selig encouraged other players to do the same. Two years later, it became a universal tribute across the Majors, with all players wearing the number 42 each Jackie Robinson Day.
7) 2007: Scutaro hits three-run, walk-off homer off Rivera
The Athletics headed into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing the Yankees, 4-2, with legendary closer Mariano Rivera coming out of the bullpen. Rivera retired the first two Oakland batters in order, and then Todd Walker singled to left field. Jason Kendall followed with a walk, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Marco Scutaro then made history, launching a three-run homer off the foul pole in left to win it, the first walk-off homer Rivera had ever given up.
6) 2010: Canó, named after Jackie, belts pair of homers; Rivera gets save
Robinson Canó was named after Jackie Robinson. So it was only natural that Canó would hit two home runs on Jackie Robinson Day in 2010 against the Angels. He helped lift the Yankees to a 6-2 victory at Yankee Stadium by hammering a solo homer off Scott Kazmir in the second inning, followed by a two-run shot off Kazmir in the fifth. In the same game, legendary closer Mariano Rivera, the final player permitted to wear the number 42, picked up the save.
5) 2007: Aaron and Robinson throw out ceremonial first pitches
Two of the greatest African-American players in baseball history, Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, threw out ceremonial first pitches at Dodger Stadium prior to the Dodgers' game against the Padres on Jackie Robinson Day in 2007. Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record on April 8, 1974, when he hit the 715th of 755 career homers. Robinson remains the only player in MLB history to win the MVP Award in both leagues. He also became the first African-American manager in MLB history when he took the helm for Cleveland in 1975.
4) 2008: Griffey hits his 595th career home run
All players around MLB wearing the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day can be traced back to one -- Ken Griffey Jr. And Griffey got ever closer to the 600-homer milestone on that day in 2008, when he crushed No. 595 off the Cubs' Ryan Dempster in the third inning of the Reds' 9-5 loss at Wrigley Field.
3) 2009: Kinsler goes 6-for-6 with a cycle
Ian Kinsler had a career game on Jackie Robinson Day in 2009, when he not only had six hits and four RBIs, but hit for the cycle during the Rangers' 19-6 win over the Orioles at the Ballpark in Arlington. Kinsler doubled to left in the first inning, homered to left-center in the third, singled twice in the fourth, tripled to right-center in the sixth to complete the cycle, and doubled again in the eighth.
2) 2012: Kemp homers, Dodgers turn triple play, Gordon hits walk-off
How about a 2-5-6-3 triple play on Jackie Robinson Day? That's what the Dodgers pulled off in 2012 before Dee Gordon delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to lift Los Angeles to a 5-4 victory over the Padres. Matt Kemp also had a big day, going 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the third.
1) 2017: Jackie Robinson statue unveiled at Dodger Stadium
On the 70th anniversary of when he took the field for the Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier, Jackie Robinson's likeness was captured in a beautiful statue outside Dodger Stadium. The statue depicts Robinson sliding, reminiscent of his famous steals of home plate, including his famed swipe of home against Yogi Berra and the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.