Major League Baseball continued to honor the pioneer who integrated baseball by celebrating the Fifth Annual Jackie Robinson Day, a mark of respect and gratitude shown to the legendary African-American athlete who broke down the color barrier of pro baseball when he became the first Black player in the majors after signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers 65 years ago.
Every player, coach and field manager of every team will wear Robinson’s jersey number (42), just as they’ve done every year for the past five years on Jackie Robinson Day.
Of the nine games to be played on April 15, the Washington Nationals game against the Miami Marlins in Miami will include a symbolic act by someone who was linked to the historic Brooklyn team and the iconic player.
South Florida resident Norman Berman will toss the ceremonial first pitch. Berman was one of the ball boys for the Brooklyn Dodgers during Robinson’s years as a Dodger and would often play catch with Robinson before games. His job as a Brooklyn teenager was to put on a Dodgers uniform, polish 48 baseballs with Mississippi mud before every home game and run them out to home plate whenever the umpire called for him, he told a Boston.com writer. . He was paid $10 a game.
The Baltimore Orioles, with a day off on April 15, will sport their No. 42 jerseys on April 16 at Camden Yards against the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year, Orioles star outfielder and African-American Adam Jones wore special cleats designed with Jackie Robinson’s name on them in honor of the man who made it possible for Jones to play in the league today.
At one point, no one in the entire league was allowed to wear Robinson’s jersey number because then- MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired the number in 1997 out of respect for Robinson’s legacy. It was the first time a jersey number was retired league-wide.
But when former MLB star Ken Griffey Jr. requested and was given permission from Selig to wear the number in tribute of Robinson’s 60th year anniversary since joining the league, other players around the league began to pick up on the trend.
Now, every player is required to wear it to remember how far baseball has come in desegregating the sport.