Friday is a special day across baseball, as it marks the 25th year the MLB will honor Jackie Robinson for breaking the game’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson Day. Today, April 15th, 2022 is also the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The MLB began Jackie Robinson day back in 1997 under then-commissioner Bud Selig. Ten years later, in 2007, Ken Griffey Jr. requested and received permission to wear jersey number 42, which was Jackie Robinson’s number, as a way to honor the former MLB great. As a result of that, Major League Baseball made the decision, in 2009, to have every player and coach wear number 42 on this day to honor the Dodgers great.
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In addition to the uniform number being worn across the, there will be tributes and events at various stadiums. Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, will be at the Dodgers’ game against the Reds and, before the game, the Dodgers will all visit the statue of Robinson which stands outside of the stadium, in order to honor the player and his contribution.
The Atlanta Braves will also send the World Series trophy to Jackie’s hometown in Cairo, Georgia for the day, where it will be shown to the Jackie Robinsons Boys & Girls Club in the neighborhood.
Many players around the league are also donating their gameday salary to The Players Alliance, which is a nonprofit started by active and retired professional baseball players.
The Alliance seeks to “create and help fund innovative programs to improve representation of Black Americans in all levels of baseball.” This includes player-led mentorship, increased Black business partnerships, and initiatives to increase participation in baseball among Black youth through funding leagues purchasing equipment, and much more.
As of the 2021 season, Infogram registers the ethnic makeup of MLB players as 57.5% White, 31.9% Hispanic, 7.7% Black, and 2.9% Asian or Other. Numbers that highlight that today’s celebration is only part of the Major League Baseball’s path toward increasing Black representation in baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts candidly said, “We need to do better” when it comes to increasing opportunities for Black players and coaches.
There are many writers that have discussed that current MLB scouts and development employees believe the reduction in the size of the MLB draft and elimination of the number of minor league teams has, and will continue to have, an impact on the number of Black amateur players.
A year ago, the MLB also hired Ken Griffey Jr. to be a senior adviser to the commissioner with the goal of increasing Black representation in the sport at the professional level.
Griffey had mentioned that other sports have a level of visibility among the young athlete that baseball lacks. “Nick Saban, John Calipari — all these great coaches can come to a kid’s house and have dinner with them. The NCAA allows that. But the NCAA doesn’t allow a professional team to go visit a kid they may or may not draft. If Nick Saban shows up at your house, everybody in the neighborhood knows it, so the notoriety is there. We don’t have that.”
So as the league honors Jackie Robinson today, there are many who hope that we have yet to see the true scope of his legacy.