There have many great players throughout the history of the game they call baseball. Babe Ruth may still be the most recognizable name to this day even though he played his last game 72 years ago and died 13 after that.
But on Wednesday night, every modern day Major League Baseball player will not be wearing the Bambino’s number 3 on the back of their jerseys, but rather one that will honor Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.
On this day 62 years ago, a young man took the field as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers wearing number 42 and what made it a historic moment was not for the color of his uniform but the skin that was underneath the flannel home white with the word “Dodgers” written in blue script across the front.
What was viewed as a day some cherished but others cringed at may have been highly anticipated but the actual game at Ebbets Field that afternoon against the Boston Braves was not even sold out. Hard to believe looking back now that a home opener was not played in front of a capacity crowd, especially for a team as beloved as the Bums were in the borough of churches. That in itself may have spoken volumes about the time and what can be construed as sort of a mini-protest by the people who could not accept the color barrier being broken.
Robinson proved those folks wrong by becoming an integral part of the Boys of Summer and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. He was also a member of the Dodgers’ only World Series championship team in Brooklyn, which came against the hated New York Yankees in 1955.
How deep did Dodger blue run in Robinson’s veins? When he started to slip later in his career, the team sold his contract to the New York Giants. Robinson retired so he would not have to suit up for ‘the enemy.’
Robinson himself may not have lived long enough to see it, but his widow Rachel will be on hand at Citi Field to honor her husband at the dedication ceremony of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the new home of the Mets. The entire section of the new ballpark will echo voices from the past, as it appears just like the entrance of the old place in Flatbush.
“The Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the Citi Field is a stunning space and a superb tribute to Jack’s enduring legacy,” Rachel Robinson said. “I am grateful to Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon for their vision and personal commitment to making this dream a reality at the Mets’ new ballpark.
“It is my hope that as people of all ages pass through the Rotunda, it will evoke their most cherished memories as well as serve as an inspiration to young people who we hope will share the values and ideals by which Jack lived.”
It will be a special day throughout America’s Pastime with a sea of ‘42’s’ in every city, all which at one time would not have accepted a man like Robinson playing baseball. He persevered and paying homage to him in this manner is well deserved.
The Dodgers may be in Los Angeles and the Braves in Atlanta, but in some ways we’re being brought back into time to a chilly April afternoon in Brooklyn that changed the way the game of baseball was not only played but also viewed.