Monday, April 15 is more than tax day across the United States. It is also the 72nd anniversary of the first game in which Jackie Robinson took the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, breaking baseball’s color barrier. To commemorate the historic event, MLB players and teams will be hosting special events and wearing special uniforms.
Robinson would have been 100 this past January and MLB has been celebrating his legacy league-wide since 2004. All players will wear his jersey number, 42, on Monday. That number has been retired league-wide since 1997, and it was 2013 when Hall of Fame relief pitcher Mariano Rivera became the last to wear it.
In addition to the jersey number 42 being on all the uniforms of all coaches, managers, players and umpires Monday and Tuesday (some teams have off-days on Monday and will be commemorating the event on Tuesday, April 16 instead), all player uniforms will don a special sleeve patch featuring a crossed-bats logo. The same logo will appear on the side of all players’ New Era 59FIFTY hats as well. Players will wear special Stance socks designed just for Monday’s and Tuesday’s games.
Other league-wide initiatives for Monday’s and Tuesday’s games include the 42 logo on all bases and dugout lineup cards. There are a few team-specific ceremonies and events which will be held as well, including:
- Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred will appear at Monday’s Mets-Phillies game to take part in a pre-game ceremony to honor the Tuskegee Airmen on Monday.
- On Tuesday, the Nationals will host Jackie Robinson Foundation alumni and scholars along with having Andre “Smokey” Lee throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
- The White Sox will treat students to a private screening of the film “42” with appearances by coaches and players.
- The Marlins will host youth organizations for a discussion with alumni, executives and players.
- The Twins will have front office staff speak to fourth-graders about Robinson’s life.
- The Rangers have invited 25 members of their youth academy to appear on the field with their players during the national anthem Monday night.
Robinson played for the Dodgers from 1947-1956, winning the 1947 National League Rookie of the Year and the 1949 NL Most Valuable Player awards. A six-time All-Star and 1962 inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Robinson won the NL batting title in 1949. Robinson also led the NL in stolen bases twice (1947 and 1949) and twice (1949 and 1951) was the top NL player in wins above replacement value as well.
After his retirement Robinson stayed active in baseball, campaigning for another color barrier to broken, that being in the managerial ranks. That barrier was finally broken almost two decades later in 1975, when Frank Robinson became the first-ever MLB manager of African-American descent, skippering the Cleveland Indians. Robinson went on to manage for at least parts of 16 seasons and record over 1,000 wins.
It was probably difficult back in 1947 for Robinson to envision what his legacy would be in 2019, but it’s reasonable to expect that if he were alive today, he could be pleased with the results of his efforts to change the game.