Dodgers: Today We All Wear 42

Apr 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers line up for the national anthem to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day before the game against the Seattle Mariners at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers line up for the national anthem to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day before the game against the Seattle Mariners at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Today MLB and the Dodgers will all come together to honor one of baseball’s greats, Jackie Robinson.

WARNING: Jackie Robinson is my all time favorite player and I always get a little emotional seeing every player wear 42 running out on the field every April 15. I apologize in advance if this article gets super sentimental.

April 15, 1947, Ebbets Field shook with cheers and boos all simultaneously as an African American man stepped out of the dugout and marched his way to the batters box proudly wearing number 42 across his back. 26,623 spectators were crammed into the ballpark that day, that included 14,000 African American patrons. Baseball seemed to be ahead of its time, as Branch Rickey did not see color as a barrier, but instead he saw talent in a young man. Jackie Robinson in that moment broke the baseball color barrier and the sport would never be the same again.

Robinson was the youngest of five children and grew up in Pasadena, California. He admitted that his family was one of the only of color in their neighborhood and throughout his childhood he faced trials and tribulations due to segregation. Through it all he worked hard and was always known for being a class act. In high school Robinson lettered in four sports: baseball, basketball, track and football. His athleticism was undeniable. After a short time at community college, Robinson transferred to UCLA where he again lettered in all four sports and became the school’s first athlete to ever do so.

After spending some time in the military, Robinson signed a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League. He settled for $400 a month on his contract in 1945. After spending two years in the Negro Leagues and minors, six days before the start of the 1947 season, Branch Rickey and the Dodgers called Robinson up from the minors.

However, it was not easy for Robinson. He faced much racial tension not only with the fans, but even with his teammates. Many players were excited for the advancements baseball was making in equality, with that being said, there were many who were not yet ready for such a change.

Anyone who questioned Robinson would be proved wrong not only by his character, but also by his ability. His finished his rookie season by playing in 151 games and had a BA of .297, an OBP of .383 and a slugging percentage of .427. In those 151 games he had 175 hits and lead the league in stolen bases with 29. His impressive performance earned him the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year award. (Rookie of the Year Awards were not separated by National and American League until 1949).

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Mr. Robinson would earn many more accolades and awards in his career. He was a six time All-Star, World Series Champion, NL MVP, MLB Rookie of the Year, NL Batting Champion and a two time NL Stolen Base Champion. Robinson’s courage, character and athletic ability would inspire countless and open the door for them to follow their dreams just as he did.

The first Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated on April 15, 2004. In 2004, the number 42 was raised in each ballpark, but players did not start wearing 42 on their jersey’s until 2007. Today the Dodgers will have a pre-game celebration on the field in order to honor the legend before their game against the San Francisco Giants. “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die..” Sorry I could not resist a Sandlot reference.

Tonight’s ceremonies will feature Rachel and Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s wife and daughter, respectively, as the Dodgers’ guests of honor. Frank Robinson, MLB’s first African-American manager, will join them, along with Laker legend Magic Johnson and Robinson’s former teammate, Don Newcombe. Civil Rights activist Danny Bakewell Sr will throw the ceremonial first pitch, and Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars and previous winners of MLB’s Breaking Barriers: In Sports essay contest will be included in the ceremonies as well.

This year the celebration of Robinson’s character and career will be even more special for one specific Dodger, Dave Roberts. Roberts is the first African American manager in the Dodgers organization and he has spoken about how deeply Robinson affected his life. Roberts too attended UCLA and looked up to Robinson growing up. In February, Alex wrote in detail about Roberts and his admiration for Robinson.

Doug Padilla of ESPN wrote an article about Roberts and how he plans to soak it all in today as the team remembers Robinson. Roberts also said:

"“Any time you put on that No. 42 jersey you feel a little bit more empowered and your chest sticks out a little and there is a little sense of pride,” Roberts said. “I might even go with the high pants.”"

No matter what team you favor, we can all look out into the field and smile today. As baseball remembers a man who became a voice for the silent and followed his dreams no matter what obstacles stood in the way. Without Jackie Robinson baseball would not be the sport we know it to be today. All because one man had the courage to step up to the plate regardless of other’s opinions and play the game he adored. Win or lose, tonight’s game will be special.