LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Dodgers joined the rest of Major League Baseball in celebrating Jackie Robinson Day today, marking the 65th anniversary of his breaking baseball’s color line.
Ceremonial first pitches were thrown by Don Newcombe, a teammate of Robinson’s with the Brooklyn Dodgers and now a Dodgers special adviser to the chairman, and Tommy Davis, who signed with the Dodgers in 1956 after receiving a call from Robinson.
Six of the Dodgers’ “Team 42′ scholars, who receive college scholarships through the Dodgers Dream Foundation and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, were recognized on the field before the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers Dream Foundation, the team’s charitable arm, funds 42 college scholarships each year as part of the ‘Team 42′ program. The First AME Church Unity Choir performed the national anthem. A video was shown highlighting Robinson’s story and impact.
All uniformed personnel — players, managers, coaches and umpires – throughout Major League Baseball wore Robinson’s No. 42 today. The number was retired throughout Major League Baseball in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s breaking the color line.
Commissioner Bud Selig allowed it to be worn in 2007 by any player on the 60th anniversary on the suggestion of then-Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.
This was the sixth consecutive year on Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day that all Dodger personnel have worn the number and the fourth consecutive year all major league personnel also wore the number. The Dodgers also wore caps with the B logo they wore when the team was based in Brooklyn.
“Jackie Robinson changed the world,’ Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be wearing this baseball jersey right now. Who knows what would have happened?’ To Kemp, Robinson was a “great man, great man of character.’ Dodger first baseman James Loney said “it means a lot’ to be able to wear Robinson’s number. “Playing in the organization he played for is really special,’ Loney said.
One No. 42 jersey from each team will be signed and auctioned off on Major League Baseball’s website, MLB.com, with the proceeds benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides four-year college scholarships, graduate school grants and extensive mentoring to a diverse group of academically distinguished students with leadership potential.
“When Jackie Robinson took the field in Brooklyn 65 years ago, he transcended the sport he loved and helped change our country in the most powerful way imaginable,’ Selig said.
“It is a privilege for Major League Baseball to celebrate Jackie’s enduring legacy each year and we are proud that every April 15th, our young fans around the world have an opportunity to learn everything that the No. 42 stands for — courage, grace determination.’ On April 15, 1947, Robinson — who was raised in Pasadena and attended Muir High School, Pasadena City College and UCLA — made his major league debut.
Robinson went hitless in four at-bats, but scored to be what proved to be the winning run in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over the Boston Braves in front of a crowd announced at 25,623 at Ebbets Field.
Robinson played his entire major league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, helping lead them to six National League championships during his 10 seasons, and, in 1955, their only World Series championship in Brooklyn.
Robinson’s successful integration of Major League Baseball is credited with helping change Americans’ attitudes toward blacks and being a catalyst toward later civil rights advances.
In 1971, the defunct Sport magazine named Robinson as the most significant athlete of the previous quarter-century in connection with its 25th anniversary.
In an interview with baseball historian Ted Patterson in connection with that honor, reprinted in the recently released official visual history of the Dodgers, “Dodgers: From Coast to Coast,’ Robinson recalled a game in Boston in 1948.
“Some Boston players figured that Pee Wee Reese, a southerner, would react to their taunts about playing alongside of me on the Dodgers,’ Robinson said. “Well, Reese did react. He left his shortstop position, came over to me at second base, placed his arms on my shoulder and said something.
“His actions had great meaning. The heckling stopped and the bench cleared in no time. Pee Wee Reese by his gesture said simply, `Yell and scream all you like. We’re a team. We came to play ball together.
“Because of attitudes like that, we were able to win six pennants in 10 years. And while we were able to conquer the Yankees only once in those six tries, I think we made our mark on them and on the game and on the nation.
“And I can’t help feeling if Americans today would take a page out of Pee Wee Reese’s book, if we could develop this kind of understanding in today’s troubled world, how much further along as a nation we would be.’
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