Friday, April 15, 2011
JACKIE ROBINSON DAY- 04/15/2008
Jackie Robinson once said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
Perhaps no man single-handedly assisted the great game of baseball more than Jackie Robinson. The Brooklyn Dodgers infielder famously became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues and broke baseball's "color barrier" on April 15, 1947. Jackie's courage paved the way for others to follow his success from the Negro Leagues. In celebration of his legacy, the New York Mets have had a rich tradition of honoring this true hero. Team owner, Fred Wilpon had been a Dodgers batting practice pitcher at age 16. He became a baby sitter for the Robinsons then, and remained a lifelong friend of their family.
Shea Stadium hosted it's first celebration at the 50th anniversary in 1997. With the eyes of the sporting world fixed on New York City, the announcement was made to retire Jackie's uniform number of "42" throughout all of Major League Baseball. The ceremony was attended by President Bill Clinton, Commissioner Bud Selig, and Mrs. Rachel Robinson. "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." Selig said that day.
Jackie's widow and partner throughout his life, Rachel Robinson was again at Shea Stadium during the 61st anniversary on Jackie Robinson Day 2008. During a pregame ceremony before the Mets played the Washington Nationals, she said, "We must create a social climate that offers new opportunity for all people." Throughout baseball more than 330 players, coaches and managers, including the entire Mets team, wore the number 42 in honor of the Hall of Famer.
Earlier in the afternoon the club had first unveiled to the public the plans for the Jackie Robinson Rotunda being built at new Citi Field. Rachel visited the construction site to an ovation from the building crew. "This rotunda is spectacular," Rachel said. "At my stage in life, you're looking for permanence, you're looking for things that shore up the future. When kids and families walk through here, I hope they're going to reflect on not just what they see Jackie Robinson accomplished, but also think about themselves and say, 'What am I doing? How am I living my life? Who am I affecting." Etched in the floor and archways are values that defined Jackie. "Courage. Excellence. Persistence. Justice. Teamwork. Commitment. Citzenship. Determination. Integrity." The Robinson's daughter, Sharon agreed, "My father did not write them down, but very much he lived these values."
The Mets were triumphant that day defeating the Nationals 6-0. Led by a solid pitching performance from Mike Pelfrey, and David Wright's home run and five RBIs.
Rachel Robinson signed this tribute card from the set for my friend Jessie, through the New York offices of the Jackie Robinson Foundation on March 10, 2011.