Jackie Robinson Day

From BR Bullpen

Jackie Robinson Day is an annual celebration put on by Major League Baseball to remember the major league debut of Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947. The day is an occasion to remember the pioneer of integration and to celebrate diversity. On this occasion, starting in 2009, all players wear uniform number 42, which has otherwise been retired throughout baseball in honor of Robinson.

Ken Griffey Jr. is credited with starting the tradition of wearing the number on this day. He first asked that his regular number, 24, be changed to 42 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Robinson's debut in 1997. This was not a problem at the time, but it was also the day that Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the number was being retired. Ten years later, in 2007, Griffey wanted to use the number again, but now needed permission to do so. He asked Selig directly and, after consulting with Robinson's widow, Rachel, the Commissioner granted him permission but also extended it to other players wishing to also pay tribute to Robinson by wearing the number that day. Many did, and two years later, the practice was made universal.

The celebration takes place on April 15, but if a game scheduled that day is postponed by weather, it occurs during the make-up game. While the day was celebrated on special occasions before, it became formally part of the Baseball Calendar in 2004. However, when the day falls on a day of the week when fewer games are scheduled (a Monday or a Thursday, for example), many teams miss out on the day. This has raised criticism from players such as David Price, who said after the Red Sox were idle on the day in 2019, when it fell on a Monday, that MLB should make a special effort to ensure all teams have a game scheduled that day, to ensure every player has a chance to pay tribute to Robinson. In his view, this was especially galling given that 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of Robinson's birth, an event which MLB had otherwise gone out of its way to celebrate - but not on the day most associated with Robinson.

In 2020, the day had to be postponed as April 15th fell during the shutdown of baseball caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. It was rescheduled on August 28th, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington. It returned to its regular date in 2021. The following year, in 2022, the celebrations were particularly grand as it marked the 75th anniversary of Jackie's debut. They included New York City temporarily renaming a section of 42nd Street and Broadway as "Jackie Robinson Way" and erecting a special marker at the location, and the illumination of the Empire State Building in the colors of the Brooklyn Dodgers with a rotating "42" on its spire. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame also inaugurated a special exhibition dedicated to Jackie on that day.

The day is also celebrated in the minor leagues. For example, Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, FL, hosts a regular season Florida State League game on that day, in Jackie's honor, the "Jackie Robinson Celebration Game".

Further Reading[edit]

  • Betelhem Ashame: "Jackie Robinson Way unveiled for 75th anniversary", mlb.com, April 15, 2022. [1]
  • Betelhem Ashame: "Empire State Building illuminated in Jackie's honor", mlb.com, April 15, 2022. [2]
  • Alyson Footer: "How Griffey inspired wearing No. 42 on JRD", mlb.com, April 14, 2021. [3]
  • Gabe Lacques: "After watershed week, MLB needs to amplify Jackie Robinson's entire legacy", USA Today, August 28, 2020. [4]

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