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Jackie Robinson Day

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Robinson to be honored annually

MLB pays tribute to man who broke color barrier

By Mark Newman / MLB.com Ticket information



Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field in 1947. (John Rooney/AP)




MLB announces day in Robinson's honor

Sharon Robinson with MLB.com's Billy Sample: 56K | 300K

Jackie Robinson timeline

On April 15, 1947, a cloudy and chilly Opening Day at old Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson trotted out to first base in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and forever changed the course of Major League Baseball in particular, and American society in general.


"I had to fight hard against loneliness, abuse and the knowledge that any mistake I made would be magnified because I was the only black man out there," Robinson would later recall in his autobiography, I Never Had It Made.


The fight was never forgotten, and now it will be remembered in a brand new way. To honor the man who broke baseball's color barrier, Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it has established April 15 as "Jackie Robinson Day" throughout the Major Leagues.


Commissioner Bud Selig made the announcement at 4:30 p.m. ET along with Robinson's daughter Sharon and former National League President Leonard C. Coleman, the Chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.


The announcement further cements Robinson's legacy by establishing April 15 as a day each year when all 30 Major League clubs will recognize the important social contributions made by the Hall of Famer. Jackie Robinson Day is one of the first programs to result from "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century." The Commissioner's Initiative, which was formed last year, has been charged with examining the future development of Major League Baseball, with an emphasis on programs that will enhance the experience of MLB fans attending games at Major League ballparks or watching games on television.


"I have often stated that baseball's proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field,"Selig said. "On that day, Jackie brought down the color barrier and ushered in the era in which baseball became the true national pastime. Fifty years after that historic event, in April 1997, I was proud to join Rachel Robinson and President Bill Clinton at Shea Stadium to honor Jackie by retiring his uniform number 42 in perpetuity. By establishing April 15 as 'Jackie Robinson Day' throughout Major League Baseball, we are further ensuring that the incredible contributions and sacrifices he made -- for baseball and society -- will not be forgotten."


"On behalf of our family and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, I would like to extend my thanks to Major League Baseball for creating an event that ensures Jackie's legacy will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of each new generation of Major League Baseball players and fans," said Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "April 15, 1947 was a day of great significance, not only for Major League Baseball, but in the fight for equality in this country. It is only fitting that the anniversary of this groundbreaking event should become a day for celebration and reflection at Major League ballparks."


On April 15, 1947, Robinson -- hand-picked by Dodgers owner Branch Rickey because of the infielder's talent as well as his intestinal fortitude -- shattered a barrier that had kept players of color from playing in the Major Leagues for more than half a century. The game was played before 25,623 fans at Ebbets Field, many of whom wore "I'm for Jackie" buttons. Robinson went 0-for-3 against the Boston Braves' Johnny Sain, but managed to lay down a successful sacrifice bunt and scored what proved to be the winning run in a 5-3 Brooklyn victory. Robinson also handled 11 chances at his new position without an error that day, and immediately confronted the type of verbal abuse that would only intensify in coming days and weeks.


"It was the most eagerly anticipated debut in the annals of the national pastime," wrote Robert Lipsyte and Pete Levine in the book Idols of the Game. "It represented both the dream and the fear of equal opportunity, and it would change forever the complexion of the game and the attitudes of Americans."


Arthur Daley, then a sports columnist for The New York Times, wrote of the historic debut: "Robinson almost has to be another DiMaggio in making good from the opening whistle. It's not fair to him, but no one can do anything about it but himself."


He did.


"Without a doubt, the greatest moment in baseball history was when Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field on April 15, 1947, because baseball foreshadowed the societal changes that would sweep this country over the next 25 years," Coleman said. "When I was a youngster and I would watch him dance around at first base, I used to think he would upset the pitcher and was trying to challenge him during the game. What I realized was that he was really challenging America ... to reach its potential."


Robinson's courageous act opened the door for others, and by the late 1950s every Major League team had at least one African-American or Latin-American player. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the barrier, Major League baseball in 1997 retired his uniform number 42 throughout both leagues.


As part of Jackie Robinson Day 2004, special pregame ceremonies are being planned for each ballpark that will be host to a game on April 15. Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to each game. Other details about Jackie Robinson Day events -- including a national celebration planned for Shea Stadium in New York that will air on MLB rightsholder TBS -- will be announced later this month.


Founded in 1973 by Rachel Robinson, The Jackie Robinson Foundation is a public, not-for-profit, national organization that awards four-year college scholarships to academically gifted students of color with financial need. Jackie Robinson scholars also participate in the Foundation's comprehensive support system that includes leadership development, mentoring programs and career counseling. The graduation rate among Jackie Robinson scholars is 92 percent. Major League Baseball supports scholarships to select Jackie Robinson/Major League Baseball Scholars and contributes to the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship endowment campaign.


In addition to its support of The Jackie Robinson Foundation, Major League Baseball operates and/or supports a number of other youth programs focused on game development and educational initiatives, including: Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Initiative, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.


Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life is a multi-curricular character education program developed by Sharon Robinson in conjunction with Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Player's Trust for Children, and Scholastic Inc. The program utilizes baseball-themed features, activities and lessons to teach children in grades K-12 the values and traits they need to deal with the barriers and challenges in their lives. Using baseball as a metaphor for life, the curriculum is based on nine values demonstrated by the late Baseball Hall of Famer and barrier breaker, Jackie Robinson: Determination, Commitment, Persistence, Integrity, Justice, Courage, Teamwork, Citizenship and Excellence.


RBI is a youth outreach program designed to promote interest in baseball, increase the self-esteem of disadvantaged children, and encourage kids to stay in school and off the streets. Managed in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, RBI programs exist in more than 190 cities worldwide, giving more than 120,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball.


The Major League Baseball Urban Youth Initiative is a comprehensive program to grow the game of baseball, promote diversity, make meaningful contributions to inner-city communities, provide safe and organized recreational activities for urban youth, and prepare high school players for college and professional baseball and softball. A major component of the Urban Youth Initiative is the construction of a permanent Major League Baseball Youth Academy. The first baseball academy is being constructed on the campus of Compton Community College in Compton, a suburb of Los Angeles. Major League Baseball contributed $3 million to build four fields on more than 20 acres on the Compton Community College campus.


Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the official charity of Major League Baseball. MLB has generated more than $15 million in direct and indirect funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1997.


"It is very important that we pause to celebrate my father and his legacy because that is the legacy that we all have to carry forward," Sharon Robinson said. "He told us that a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives, and that legacy is one of service. We certainly see that throughout the work done with the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Breaking Barriers and in many other ways. Having a day set aside to honor my father, along with programs to remember and carry on his service, this reminds us that it's very important that we not just celebrate the day but that it is part of an ongoing program to celebrate Jackie Robinson's legacy."


Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Jackie Robinson is awesome, but he already has his number universally retired and now he gets his own day. Aren't we doing a little much for a player who wasn't as good as Aaron or Ruth? We respect the man and what he stood for and that's why his number is retired, but what's next, robinson month?


It's not about his on-field accomplishments. It's about the significance of what his career meant for the game of baseball, and (at the time) the country. I think this should be it for the Jackie tributes. The only thing I don't like about this is that the timing of the announcement is so suspect. It stinks of a ploy to take the edge off the steroid scandal.

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I didn't even think of the steroid thing. Robinson is important, he gets his due in history books and such for what he symbolized, but we already universally retired his number. Without Ruth for example, would baseball be what it is today? Doesn't that deserve a day? I think so. Ruth doesn't get credit in history books for anything truly important unlike Robinson, but what he did for baseball is unparalleled.


I wouldn't mind if the had a robinson month as long as they honored a couple other greats.

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