A multitude of events to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day
By Yvonne Carrasco
The Dodgers will join Major League Baseball and all MLB clubs in paying tribute to Jackie Robinson tonight when the Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants at 7:10 p.m.
April 15 is commemorated annually, and today marks the 69th anniversary of the legendary Hall of Famer breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
This year marks the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson signing his first professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in 1945, which was the first step toward his eventual breaking of the color barrier on April 15, 1947. As has been a tradition each April 15th since 2009, MLB will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing No. 42 during that day’s games.
Rachel (left) and Sharon Robinson, the wife and daughter of Jackie Robinson, will be the Dodgers’ guests of honor in tonight’s tribute. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, the first African-American manager in MLB, will join the Robinsons, along with Dodger owner Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Dodger special advisor Don Newcombe, Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodger teammate.
As presenting sponsor of the Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium, Bank of America will welcome civil rights icon, publisher and real estate entrepreneur Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. to throw the ceremonial first pitch.
A special pregame ceremony will include Rachel and Sharon, 11 Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars and Alumni and previous regional winners of the Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life essay contest, which is run by MLB, Scholastic and Sharon Robinson. The winners of the 2016 Breaking Barriers essay contest, which marks the program’s 20th anniversary, will be announced Monday.
The Military Hero of the Game tonight is U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Friend of Irvine. Friend served in the U.S. Army, Army Air Corps and was a Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Pilot. He was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1920 and earned a private pilot’s license in 1940. At that time, the U.S. Army was not accepting applications for military flight training for non-whites. However, at the insistence of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and others, a program was established in Tuskegee, Alabama, to help African-Americans learn to fly U.S. Army aircraft. Friend applied in 1942 and was accepted as an air cadet in the program. After receiving his wings as a military pilot, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, then assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group stationed in the European Theatre of Operations, where he became the primary wing-man to Col. Benjamin O. Davis, the great U.S. Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII. Friend flew P-51s for nearly two years until the end of the war.
The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive an adult replica Jackie Robinson jersey (presented by Bank of America). All Dodger players and on-field personnel will wear No. 42. Jackie Robinson Day jeweled bases and lineup cards will also be a part of the on-field commemoration. Tickets for Jackie Robinson Day can be purchased by visiting dodgers.com/tickets or by calling (866) DODGERS.
Community events and support
The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation funds eight, four-year Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarships and enlists JRF scholars to mentor local middle school students at its annual BE42 mentoring day. LADF executive director Nichol Whiteman is a proud Jackie Robinson Scholar Alumna.
The Dodgers and LADF also honored Robinson throughout the week with various events in the community. MLB, the Dodgers and LADF supported Sharon Robinson’s school visits to two local schools to share her new book, “The Hero Two Doors Down.” This included a presentation and book signing through a partnership with Scholastic. The Dodger character was on hand at both schools with giveaways, and nearly 400 schoolchildren were in attendance at Kipp Academy of Innovation and at Norma Coombs Elementary School.
The Dodgers will also play host to Crenshaw High School’s baseball and softball teams today from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dodger Stadium, for a screening of the Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Jackie Robinson.” Following the film screening, Dodger historian Mark Langill and Dodger alumnus Tommy Davis will lead a Q&A session. The students will also be treated to lunch and a VIP tour of Dodger Stadium.
In recognition of the Robinson family celebrating Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles, MLB will activate a special Play Ball event and will be joined by Sharon Robinson and surprise Dodger guests. Play Ball, a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball, is the sport’s largest effort to encourage participation in both formal and casual baseball activities. The Dodgers’ Play Ball event today will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at a Dodger Community School, Commonwealth Elementary.
John Muir High School baseball and softball teams will be in attendance tonight, courtesy of the Dodgers’ Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball program. John Muir, Robinson’s alma mater, was presented with a newly renovated baseball field in March, courtesy of the Dodgers and other generous donors. LADF managed the reconstruction of the field. At the time of the annual MLB Groundskeepers Conference in January, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund provided funding to help renovate the baseball field at John Muir. The project, which was spearheaded by the LADF, included a $50,000 BTF grant to the Pasadena Educational Foundation.
Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers essay contest-winner Precious Rodriguez, along with 60 of her classmates from Southridge Middle School in Fontana, will be in attendance Sunday, also courtesy of the Kids 4 Dodgers Baseball program. Prior to the game, Sharon Robinson will present the essay contest award to Rodriguez.
MLB and the Jackie Robinson Foundation recently announced that MLB has increased its financial commitment to the Foundation. The two organizations will expand their programmatic partnership beginning this year. MLB will greatly enhance its longstanding philanthropic support by funding 30 four-year JRF scholarships — one for each of the 30 MLB clubs — and by contributing $1 million to the Foundation’s Jackie Robinson Museum project.
Additionally, MLB and JRF will engage JRF Scholars to mentor young people in MLB’s youth and community partnership programs, including Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), MLB Urban Youth Academies and MLB-supported Boys & Girls Clubs of America programs. JRF Scholars will mentor participants in these various youth programs, encouraging their young mentees to embrace educational opportunities and joining them in extra-curricular activities, such as attending MLB games with the League’s support. With this expanded partnership, MLB and its clubs have now, historically, contributed more than $15 million to the JRF for its scholarship program and for the Jackie Robinson Museum.
With support from donors such as Major League Baseball, the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program provides four years of financial assistance and direct program services annually to 225 highly motivated students attending 100 colleges and universities across the country, and has developed a mentoring curriculum to reach a broad cohort of college students beyond its core JRF scholars. The Foundation’s unique program offers comprehensive support that includes internship and permanent job placement, curriculum and career guidance, one-on-one mentoring and leadership and practical life-skills training. The Jackie Robinson Foundation’s celebrated, hands-on approach has resulted in a consistent, nearly 100 percent graduation rate throughout its 43-year history.
One number ‘42’ jersey will be signed by each member of every club and auctioned on MLB.com, with the proceeds benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
MLB Network is televising extensive programming around Jackie Robinson Day. Leading up to the game, MLB Network will air coverage of club commemorations, plus several interviews with current and former players about Robinson’s legacy, including Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Dodger manager Dave Roberts, current big-leaguers Chris Archer, Adam Jones and Brandon Phillips, as well as a new interview by Bob Costas with Newcombe.
MLB.com will have complete coverage of the day’s events from each Major League ballpark with photographs, video highlights, interviews and stories from its club beat and national reporters. Included in the coverage will be a special Jackie Robinson Day edition of the Edward Jones Chatting Cage on MLB.com at 1 p.m., when fans will be able to talk live one-on-one with Roberts.
Additionally, MLB.com will support Jackie Robinson Day events across MLB.com, the MLB.com At Bat app, Cut4.com, and through official MLB and club accounts on social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Jackie Robinson Day will be supported across social media again with its official hashtag #Jackie42.
This week’s episode of “Play Ball,” MLB Network’s new weekly series geared toward kids, will be dedicated to Robinson, including an introduction for the youth audience to Robinson’s career, an interview by Harold Reynolds with Curtis Granderson (filmed in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field) and a recreation of Robinson stealing home plate in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series by Reynolds and fellow MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac inside MLB Network’s Studio 42, named in honor of Robinson. Play Ball airs Saturday mornings MLB Network.
Read more about it …
Major League Baseball aims to educate all fans about Jackie Robinson, his life’s accomplishments and his legacy. For more information, please visit MLBCommunity.org. Dodger Insider also offers a rich library of Jackie Robinson content.