Today is Jackie Robinson Day – with this year being the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. I could sit here and extol the virtues of Robinson and his then-general manager Branch Rickey, but countless other writers have done that far more eloquently than I have; so I won’t even bother trying. Instead, I want to talk about the number 42 itself.
It was 15 years ago today that Comissioner Bud Selig decreed that the number 42 would be retired by ALL MLB clubs in honor of Robinson. 2009 was the first year that all uniformed MLB personnel would wear 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Some people, including many MLB player at the time, have said that they think having all MLB players and coaches wear 42 on JR day somehow dilutes its significance.Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is Jackie Robinson‘s debut the most important moment in the history of Major League Baseball; but it is, in my opinion, on a short listed of the most important moments in American history as well.
There is something almost surreal about seeing people wear 42 in MLB now. Aside from Mariano Rivera, no one EVER sees the number anymore…except on April 15. Then EVERYONE wears it. MLB has managed to elevate this number to an iconic status, not unlike the Superman S shield. It has become a symbol, of everything that Robinson represented. Look at the photos and tweets on this page and you can sense the genuine reverence players feel not only for the man, but for the number and everything it represents.
Courage. Determination. Teamwork. Persistence. Integrity. Teamwork. Citizenship. Justice. Commitment. Excellence. Is it even possible to dilute the legacy of a man who dedicated his life to these 9 values?