The third Friday of April – which this year landed just prior to the Easter weekend – was important in baseball as well, since it marked 75 years since Jackie Robinson had stepped onto the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson.org perhaps put it best: “On April 15, 1947, 75 years ago, Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, changing baseball – and changing the course of history. He chose to stand for equality, and to use his gifts to break barriers and build bridges on and off the field. His commitment to equal opportunity and social justice served as a catalyst, igniting a movement that impacted the entire nation inspiring courage and conviction in those who followed.”
MLB teams across the nation held celebrations (we’ll get to those in a minute). Closer to home for the many youth teams and events, challenges went out to the baseball community, including Little League, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Pony, Dixie, Ripken and other leagues – to play a total of 42 innings over the weekend of April 15-17.
And did they ever. Leagues (from pee-wees to pros) shared the content of their games (using the hashtag #Jackie42) on social media, and many were recognized on @PlayBall (on Twitter and Instagram) and PlayBall.org.
In fact, Robinson’s triumphs are still making an impact on youth, who see his history and realize that with courage and conviction, everything is possible.
In fact, noted the columnist in the link above, it was a first-person experience:
“Five years ago, during one of my eldest daughter's first Little League games of the season, I noticed her bouncing around at first base on each pitch. It was clear she was imitating someone, and given the only game she'd seen me play in at the time was the Hall of Fame game when she was 3, she was definitely not copying me. She proceeded to steal a base every chance she could. When pressed to explain her sudden love affair with stealing bases and aggressively advancing on every pitch, she dropped one name: Jackie Robinson.”
ESPN notes, “Robinson was a star from the moment he stepped on the field, excelling despite an environment of hatred and abuse from other players and fans. Baseball retired Robinson's No. 42 leaguewide in 1997, and in 2004 established Jackie Robinson Day, on which the league would honor his memory on the anniversary of his April 15, 1947, debut. Players, managers and umpires all wear No. 42 every April 15, and each team pays tribute to Robinson in its own way.”
And sports tourism in New York will get a boost as well. The Jackie Robinson Museum opens in July 2022, and by the numbers, it’s impressive:
- 19,380: The square footage of the museum itself
- 11,251 The square footage of changing and permanent exhibits, dedicated to the legacy of Jackie Robinson
- 680: Maximum occupancy in the museum’s components: Main pantheon, three flexible galleries, 75 seat theater, retail space, classrooms, and archive room
- 4,500+: The number of artifacts collected over generations of Jackie Robinson's family and friends
- 40,000: Historical images
- 450+: Hours of broadcast-quality video footage
And a few more Jackie Robinson numbers (also impressive):
- 9: Years as a Dodger
- .311: Batting average
- 137: Number of home runs
- 734: RBIs
- 197: Stolen bases
Also… In 1955, Robinson helped the Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to win their first World Series Championship. He took home the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and in 1962 became the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Robinson’s impact is still being felt – and being felt across borders. In Ontario, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated Jackie Robinson Day as well.
On Friday, April 15, while the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Oakland A’s, fans had the opportunity to view an exhibit of artifacts assembled by the Hall that put a spotlight on Robinson, as well as prominent Black Canadian players and teams
“We are proud to participate in Jackie Robinson Day at the Rogers Centre,” said Jeremy Diamond, chair of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s board of directors. “The fact that this is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut makes it even more meaningful. We are excited to share our artifacts to help tell Jackie’s story, as well as the rich history of Black players and teams in our country.”
But, says the MLBPA, much work still remains to be done:
“On this, the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s debut, it’s clear that the inclusion of Black athletes has raised the quality of play on the field. But in too many cases – in front offices, board rooms and other areas of influence on and off the field – progress has been sparing and the struggle for social justice, equality and opportunity endures.
The courage and perseverance that Jackie Robinson displayed with his groundbreaking achievement should inspire us all to recommit ourselves to the quest for diversity, inclusion and equality in all occupations and walks of life. That includes the right for workers to earn a wage and benefits that provide for dignity and respect when their work is done.
“The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time,” Jackie Robinson once said. A true commitment to honoring Jackie’s legacy will help make those words a reality.”