Before I begin, I would like to send a personal thank you to George Kenneth Griffey Jr. (You know him as “The Kid”, or simply, “Junior”.)
It was Ken Griffey Jr.’s idea in 2007 to “un-retire” the legendary No. 42 on one of the best days of the baseball calendar; Jackie Robinson Day.
Jackie Robinson was one of the most influential figures in not just sports, but in the entire world during his time. Every year on April 15th, Major League Baseball celebrates the life of Jackie Robinson with “Jackie Robinson Day”.
Personally, as a young man of multiple races, including African-American, Tuesday isn’t just another day for me. I began playing the game of baseball when I was nine-years-old. When I decided to walk away from the game and pursue a future with my education, I promised myself I would never let the reasons why I began playing baseball to leave my thoughts. Jackie Robinson is one of those reasons why I played.
Jackie Robinson wasn’t just a great human being with aspirations of success. Robinson was a tremendous athlete. During his time at UCLA, Robinson did letter in baseball, football, track and basketball. Believe it or not, baseball wasn’t even Robinson’s best sport. In his only season playing for the Bruins, he hit .097. Robinson won the 1940 NCAA Men’s Long Jump Championship with a jump of 24 ft., 10 1/4 in.
After graduating from UCLA, Robinson joined the Army and served until his honorable discharge in 1944. Then, Robinson made a dream become reality.
Jackie didn’t just break the color barrier in baseball, he shattered it. After a couple seasons in the historic Negro leagues and the minor leagues, Robinson was given a shot at age 28 with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15th, 1947.
Robinson finished his Hall of Fame career as a six-time All-Star, the 1947 NL Rookie of the Year, the 1949 NL MVP along with a batting title, a two-time Stolen Base champ in 1947 and 1949 and won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.
The 2013 release of “42” highlighted the life and trails that Robinson went through during his life. When you have a night to yourself or with your family, I highly recommend watching this film. It’s a tremendous story.
The slander and hatred that Robinson had to go through during his time was unreal to see (in Hollywood form with “42”) in a world when everything and everyone was so close-minded. As good as “42” was, a movie or a single day cannot fully show how much impact Jackie Robinson had on the world.
Although some disagree with baseball’s best gesture on Jackie Robinson Day, seeing every team playing on April 15th wearing the No. 42 sends chills up and down my arms every time. I understand that some feel they aren’t worthy enough of the legendary number, but the honor should be something embraced by every player, especially minority players.
The point I’m trying to make is, April 15th is a special day every year. A man with the world against him, changed the world forever.
I’m forever indebted to Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
(Also, as a side note, don’t forget what else to show respect to today.)
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 15, 2014