The Boston Red Sox played their annual 11:05 a.m. Patriots Day game at Fenway Park, allowing them and the Tampa Bay Rays to be the first teams to honor Jackie Robinson on the 66th anniversary of his historic first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
All players in action today and tonight will wear Robinson’s “42,” which was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997, on baseball’s fifth annual Jackie Robinson Day. Teams that are off today will wear the number Tuesday.
Only New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera still wears the number; when he retires after the season, 42 will no longer be worn in the majors.
“Jackie Robinson was a great man,” Rivera said (via ESPN) over the weekend. “I have always said that wearing this number is a privilege and a great responsibility … to represent what Jackie represented for us, as a minority, and for all of baseball in general, it’s tremendous. For me, it’s just a privilege to wear and to try to keep that legacy. It makes me want to be at my best. And that’s what I tried to do my whole career.”
The Rays took time to watch “42,” the new film about Robinson, during spring training. “So when you’re talking about Jackie Robinson, I don’t think people realize the significance and really courage that went behind that, and in the movie it points that out — the courage to not fight back, to be able to win over that particular mind set to be able to make all of this work.”
“We all knew his story by heart, of course, and took a great American pride in him, the very first black player in the majors: a carefully selected 28-year-old college graduate and Army veteran primed and prepped in 1947 by Dodger President Branch Rickey, who exacted a promise from him that he would never respond, never complain, never talk back, no matter what taunts or trash came at him from enemy players out of the stands,” Roger Angell writes.
“He did us proud, but at a cost beyond the paying.”