One of Commissioner Bud Selig’s best legacies he will leave behind when he retires is the recognition that Jackie Robinson receives on an annual basis. It goes without saying that what happened on April 15, 1947 had the most influence on the game and all of professional sports than anything that ever occurred. Today, as Major League Baseball celebrates the legacy of Jackie Robinson, players from all over the majors were eager to share their thoughts on Robinson and what he meant for baseball when he played and what he means to the sport now.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com talked to L.J. Hoes of the Houston Astros and quoted the outfielder regarding the simple act of wearing number 42 today along with every player, coach, and umpire in baseball:
It means a lot, just thinking about what he’s done for all minorities in baseball. Being African American, it’s something that’s going to be very special, and I’m very excited. Without him, I wouldn’t have this opportunity to be able to play Major League Baseball. Just realizing what he went through to create an opportunity for everybody to play Major League Baseball, it’s something that’s tremendous.
For the first time ever, there are no current players who wear the number 42. In 1997, when the number was retired by all of baseball in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier, players who currently wore the number at that time were allowed to continue to wear it. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was one of those players and with the retirement of the future Hall of Famer last season, there are no more players left who wear 42.
Without Jackie Robinson doing what he did, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. [Today] gives me more and more appreciation for what he achieved, and what a special person he was to be able to do that. You have to be strong. I don’t know if I would be able to do that — be able to endure what he did, and make a statement. He got everything moving in the right direction.
Wilson, a white pitcher for the Halos, pointed out the uniqueness of Jackie Robinson Day among professional sports:
It’s a signature day for the sport. Not too many singular person’s name, number and performance can be celebrated like that, once a year and on a daily basis, and on a global scale. [He] made it possible for us to see some of the best players in the world. Not just the black players, but the Latin players, and anyone else who was excluded before. It’s good to have a constant reminder of that.
Obviously, Jackie is the reason I’m sitting here. A lot of other folks are in the position that they’re sitting in [because of him]. I’ll wear it [number 42] with pride. I think it’s very significant. I think probably lost in all this is the struggles that he really went through.
It’s an amazing day. Every year I learn something more about Jackie Robinson and what he meant to baseball. We’re very blessed to wear his number for one day. Every time I wear his number, I wish I could play like him.
Rios sums up what this day should mean to every baseball player in the majors and anywhere baseball is played:
It means a lot to us. He gave us the opportunity to shine in this game. We do it with a lot of pride and respect. It’s a great day to honor him.