Professional baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson’s legacy across the major and minor leagues, with plenty of events in ballparks across the country.
It was on April 15, 1947, that Jackie Robinson made his Dodgers debut at Ebbets Field before a crowd of 26,623, breaking the modern color barrier in Major League Baseball. Playing at first base, Robinson’s debut was not an auspicious one – he went hitless and scored a run in a 5-3 Dodgers win over the Boston Braves — but the cultural impact was immediate, as Mike Lupica explains. As we’ve seen this weekend, race relations in America still represents a huge challenge, but Robinson’s achievement paved the way for improvements.
Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day at every April 15 game in several ways. First, all players and on-field personnel wearing Jackie’s iconic Number ’42.’ For 2018, there will be additional on-field uniform elements, including a commemorative patch on all team caps and jersey sleeves, socks emblazoned with ’42,’ and a new lightweight hooded fleece for batting practice and dugout wear featuring the ’42’ logo.
Second, teams playing at home on today will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day with special on-field, pregame ceremonies in their ballparks, some of which will include Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars, as well as activities in their respective communities. Jeweled bases and lineup cards also will be featured.
Jackie’s wife, Rachel Robinson, founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and their daughter and son, Sharon and David Robinson, will attend Jackie Robinson Day ceremonies at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
On the Minor League Baseball side, the Daytona Tortugas (High A; Florida State League) will commemorate the occasion at The Jack (Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark).
As has become customary, the Tortugas will once again be the lone team in baseball to wear all number nine jerseys during Sunday’s game in tribute to Jackie, as shown in the top of this article. Additionally, the first 1,000 fans will receive special Jackie Robinson t-shirts upon entry to the ballpark.
And for the first time ever, footage of Jackie Robinson playing on City Island will debut on the Tortugas videoboard, courtesy of local historian Bill Schumann.
George Bates, Jackie Robinson’s batboy from that fateful 1946 game, will be in attendance once again and will kick start the ceremonies by throwing a first pitch. Harold Lucas will be in attendance once again, sitting in the same stands Sunday as he did to watch Jackie back on March 17, 1946.
Also on the MiLB side: the St. Lucie Mets will host the Dunedin Blue Jays (both High A; Florida State League) at Historic Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium in the fifth annual Jackie Robinson Celebration Game. The game starts at 1:42 p.m. Eastern, in honor of Robinson’s #42. All net ticket proceeds benefit the United Way of Indian River County.