Los Angeles Dodgers and MLB celebrate Jackie Robinson day
For millions of baseball fans today, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball celebrated the annual Jackie Robinson Day. In celebrating the American Hero, players from around the league wore Jackie’s number 42 in commemoration of the iconic player who broke the color barrier in baseball on April 15, 1947. Teams who did not play on April 15, 2013, they will commemorate Jackie and wear his number on Tuesday April 16th.
It has been 66 years since April 15, 1947, that is when Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier in baseball becoming the first African-American to play Major League baseball. Jackie signed with the then Brooklyn Dodgers and amid all the hatred and racial slurs. Jackie kept his cool and focus on the game the best he could, never giving in to the bigotry and fighting back.
Today, and because of Jackie all races are allowed to play Major League baseball however, blacks in the MLB are at an all-time low. Not many blacks choose to play baseball but instead opt to play sports like basketball and football. For some it is about the money, unless of course your a Alex Rodriguez or a Matt Kemp then a multi-million dollar contract is less likely. It is also how the sport is marketed towards black youth. Making many young black players want to play football or basketball instead.
Maybe the MLB could do a better job in marketing towards the urban community more and use some of it’s black players to help in putting together clinics in urban communities. Get black youth to love the sport of baseball once again, and not just from youth but on through high school and college.
Now, and in 2013 which marks 66 years of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the MLB continues to celebrate the legacy of not only a great ballplayer but a great human being, Jackie Robinson.
On Monday and to celebrate Jackie Robinson day, Jackie’s widow Rachel, daughter Sharon and son David attended Monday’s game at Dodger stadium. Before the game began there were pre-game festivities including a video tribute to Jackie.
Also being honored were Jackie’s teammates 1956 National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Don Newcombe, and the late Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella.
“I got a chance to be a part of this historic change in the civil rights movement. It was all because of Jackie Robinson because if Jackie failed all of this wouldn’t be going on, and Jackie made that happen,” Dodger legend Don Newcombe said.
Jackie Robinson’s number is the only number to be retired across the Major leagues, it was on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson day when the decision to retire Jackie’s number was made.
Before today’s game at Dodger stadium Harrison Ford who plays Branch Rickey in the biopic about Jackie’s life threw out the first pitch in Monday’s game.
Kemp one of the Los Angeles Dodgers biggest stars has recently been reflecting on the late Dodger legend saying, “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be in this position I’m in right now, living the dream, playing the game I love to play. I always thank him for that.”
Kemp who has forged a close bond with another Dodger great, Don Newcombe says he learns from his elders and gets insight from Newcombe.
Kemp works to keep Jackie’s legacy alive and wants to teach about the former Dodger as well as see more African Americans enter the big leagues.
Kemp believes the reason there are less blacks is because of the way the sport is marketed.
“You always see like the best basketball players in the world, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, you always see these big Nike, Adidas, Under Armour commercials. Like cool basketball commercials and cool football commercials that attract kids. Kids, they watch TV all day, so once they see something on TV, they’re going to be like, ‘Ooh, I want to be that person,” Kemp said in referring to how basketball and football are marketed towards young athletes.
Before continuing to say, “You see like Mike Trout and Ryan Howard on Subway commercials. Those are the only baseball commercial I ever really see.”
Matt Kemp brings up good points, one of the last biggest stars to make an impact in the MLB and whom identified as African American was current home run record holder Barry Bonds and sure there is also Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. but it does not seem to be enough to attract black players to the sport.
As of opening day this year the percentage of black players in the Major leagues was 8.5%.
“Jackie Robinson was a great man. 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,” Mariano Rivera of the Yankees said of the Dodger great over the weekend.
The Yankees were one of the teams who had Monday off but will pay tribute to Jackie Robinson on Tuesday and will take to the field wearing Jackie’s number, 42.
’42’ is now playing in theaters worldwide and it stars Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson.