Dodgers & MLB celebrate Robinson

This week marked the 77th anniversary of Jackie Robinson making his debut with the DODGERS and Robinson was celebrated throughout Major League Baseball, with all uniformed personnel wearing number 42 in his honor.

The Jackie Robinson statue at the Dodger Stadium Centerfield Plaza. (Photo: Getty Images© Provided by CBS Los Angeles)

By Earl Heath | Contributing Sports Writer

This week marked the 77th anniversary of Jackie Robinson making his debut with the DODGERS and Robinson was celebrated throughout Major League Baseball, with all uniformed personnel wearing number 42 in his honor.

Each year intentionally LA is scheduled home game and this year Los Angeles hosted the Washington Nationals, and prior to the game Magic Johnson was on field to introduce a video tribute to Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow who is now 101 years old.

In the video, titled “Dear Rachel,” Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward, Dave Roberts, Dusty Baker, James Loney, Jerry Hairston Jr., Billie Jean King, Stan Kasten, Dr. Harry Edwards, Dodgers Foundation CEO Nichol Whiteman, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass were among those who spoke.

Former Dodger Reggie Smith speaks at the Stadium (Courtesy Photo)

“Jackie Robinson became the most vilified, targeted subject of verbal abuse and malicious treatment in the sports arena since Jack Johnson had the audacity to become heavyweight champion of the world in 1908,” sociologist and civil rights activist Edwards said.. “Like Jack Johnson, Jackie Robinson stood alone.”

At New York’s Citi Field, Rachel Robinson rode in a golf cart to the Mets dugout, where she was given flowers by manager Carlos Mendoza and retired players Mookie Wilson and Butch Huskey — the last Met to wear Robinson’s No. 42.

“She’s the legacy of perseverance,” said David Robinson, the youngest son of Jackie and Rachel Robinson.

Before the game Dodgers players and coaches have gathered at the statue in Centerfield every year since 2021 to listen to manager Dave Roberts talk about Robinson and his lasting legacy. Last season was the first that they were joined by their opponent, which came by request from the Chicago Cubs. This year they were joined by the Washington Nationals.

“He had a big burden in his life to be a professional baseball player but to take on all this negativity, this hate towards him, his wife, his kids, and still persevere,” Roberts said “I can’t say enough of what Jackie Robinson’s meant to not only the Black community but the Hispanic community, as well,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez told the group. “He opened the doors for many, many great players, he really did, and he changed the lives of many, including myself. I don’t know if I would be here if it wasn’t for Jackie. My idol Roberto Clemente definitely, probably, wouldn’t have been around.”

“He exemplifies what it means to have strength, courage and passion,” Martinez said of Robinson.

Current Dodger Jason Heyward also  spoke at the gathering last season, his first year with the Boys in Blue. 

“I just can never stop imagining what Jackie had to go on a daily basis when he had it continuously thrown in his face that he was different,” he said. “He made no excuses and wanted to get this mission done.”

Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number in 1997 across the league on the 50th anniversary of his debut. It remains the only number that has been retired across the entire league. 

“One man can change the world. All the adversity and crap he had to go through, I don’t think a lot of people could tolerate that. He did. He changed the world, said JP Crawford of the Seattle Mariners. “All the interracial couples don’t think I’d be here today if it wasn’t for him. Honestly, we wouldn’t have these jobs that we have, wouldn’t have these opportunities that we have today if it wasn’t for him.

Robinson was born in Georgia but raised in Pasadena where he attended Muir High School before heading on to Pasadena City College and UCLA. He was known for his prowess at nearly every sport, including basketball, football and track and field. 

He served in the United States Army for two years during World War II before he was honorably discharged. 

His lasting legacy continues to impact generations of baseball fans and activists alike. His story has become a common basis for recreation, most recently in 2013 when he was portrayed by Chadwick Boseman in the acclaimed film “42.”

The Jackie Robinson Foundation has given college scholarships for years. It has a 98 percent graduation Rate.