April 15 is a date that changed American sports and culture like few others.
On April 15, 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Boston Braves and started a future Hall of Famer at first base: Jackie Robinson.
Baseball will honor Robinson with its annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day.
Here’s what you need to know about the day’s festivities:
1. Every Player on Every Team Will Wear No. 42
It can be a somewhat confusing day for fans, broadcasters and sportswriters because it’s impossible to differentiate one player from another because of the number on a player’s back. But it’s well worth the confusion to honor Robinson.
This year is the first in which there are no active Major Leaguers who wear No. 42 full-time. Baseball retired the number universally in 1997, but let those who who were wearing it at the time were allowed to continue wearing it. Mariano Rivera, who retired last year, was the last player to wear it full-time.
2. It’s the Holiday’s 11th Year
Jackie Robinson Day has been acknowledged informally for decades, but it wasn’t an official league-wide holiday until 2004, when commissioner Bud Selig initiated it.
Selig and Rachel Robinson (pictured above) announced the holiday on April 15, 2004 at Shea Stadium before the Mets hosted the Dodgers.
3.The Inaugural Jackie Robinson Celebration Game Will Take Place Today
The Dodgers will be on the road on Jackie Robinson Day for the first time in 10 years. But Dodgertown, the team’s former spring training home and the site of Robinson’s first spring training, will host the first-ever Jackie Robinson Celebration Game.
The Vero Beach, Fla. complex will host a Single A game between the Lakeland Flying Tigers (affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) and the Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee Brewers.)
4. Robinson Scored the Go-Ahead Run in His Debut
Robinson’s debut wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid. Batting second and playing first base, he went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt and a run scored. With the Dodgers trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, he reached on an error and scored the go-ahead run on a two-run double by Pete Reiser. The Dodgers went on to win 5-3, handing three-time All-Star Johnny Sain the loss.
5. Teammate Ralph Branca Talked About Robinson’s Legacy
Ralph Branca, a pitcher on the 1947 Dodgers and one of the few surviving members of the team, gave an extensive interview to MLB.com about playing with Robinson. According to Branca, Robinson told Branca before the game that he wasn’t nervous when he took the field.
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