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Jackie Robinson Day: Honouring The Man Who Integrated Baseball & Helped Change America
April 15, 2013
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In the fight for equality in America, Jackie Robinson's debut in Major League Baseball is one of the seminal moments in history.

On this day, April 15, 1947 in front of 26,623 fans, Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform in a regular-season game for the first time.

Until then, African-American players had been forced to play in the Negro leagues (as they were known at the time), no matter how talented they were.

And over the previous 60 years, there were a lot of black players who should have played in the majors.

Aside from his outstanding ability, Robinson's courage and character can't be understated. He endured racial taunts from fans and opposing players.

One team, the St. Louis Cardinals threatened to strike if Robinson played. In another game, Philadelphia players called him the N-word and yelled that he should "go back to the cotton fields".

jackie-robinson-day-honouring-the-first-man-who-integrated-major-league-baseball-and-helped-change-america-feature3.jpg Even some of his own Dodgers' teammates threatened to sit out, rather than play with Robinson.

But baseball officials, the Dodgers' President & General Manager Branch Rickey, and their manager Leo Durocher all stood by Robinson - refusing to give in to such pressure.

In fact, Durocher famously told the rest of the Dodgers' players...

"I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f****n' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded."

Through it all, Robinson played with class and dignity, and won the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award.

Today, across Major League Baseball, every player will wear Robinson's #42 to honour his legacy.

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It became an annual tradition, shortly after Commissioner Bud Selig had Robinson's number retired across all of baseball in 1997.

The main ceremony will be held by the Los Angeles Dodgers (they moved from Brooklyn before the '58 season) at their home stadium.

Robinson's widow Rachel and his daughter Sharon will be there.

Rachel founded The Jackie Robinson Foundation, which offers scholarships to lower income minority students. Sharon plays a key role in the foundation, works for Major League Baseball, and has written two books about her father.

86-year-old Don Newcombe - one of the African-American players who followed Robinson to the Dodgers - will also be there. Fox Sports has a great piece with Newcombe entitled 'Why It Had To Be Jackie'.

Former Los Angeles Lakers greats and NBA Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will also attend.

Johnson is part of the Dodgers' ownership group and is the first African-American in a top ownership role for a Major League team. Abdul-Jabbar wrote the forward to MLB.com's eBook entitled, 'Fortitude: The Exemplary Life of Jackie Robinson'.

Harrison Ford - who plays the Dodgers' former President & GM Branch Rickey in the new movie '42' - is scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

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The Dodgers led the way in signing minority players, which helped them dominate the National League from 1947 to 1966, and win the World Series four times.

Robinson retired in 1957 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

In typical Robinson fashion, he urged voters to consider only his performance on the field, and not his cultural impact on the game.

Among his many awards and honours, one in particular relates directly to Canada. In 2011, the United States put up a plaque at Robinson's home in Montreal to honour the end of segregation in baseball.

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Robinson's daughter Sharon stands next to the commemorative plaque in Montreal

The house, on 8232 avenue de Gaspe near Jarry Park, was where Robinson lived when he played for the minor league Montreal Royals during 1946.

jackie-robinson-day-honouring-the-first-man-who-integrated-major-league-baseball-and-helped-change-america-feature7.jpg In a letter read during the ceremony, his widow Rachel wrote: "I remember Montreal and that house very well and have always had a warm feeling for that great city. Before Jack and I moved to Montreal, we had just been through some very rough treatment in the racially biased South during spring training in Florida.

In the end, Montreal was the perfect place for him to get his start. We never had a threatening or unpleasant experience there. The people were so welcoming and saw Jack as a player and as a man."

After becoming sick with diabetes and heart disease, Jackie Robinson died in 1972 of a heart attack. He was 53.

via mlb.com

Last week, one of the stars of the film '42' John C. McGinley was in the red chair. Here's a link to that interview.

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