Ryno Report: Yankees keep Robinson’s memory alive beyond special day


Jackie Robinson was probably not a big fan of the Yankees in his day. Actually, he probably he hated them. The Dodgers were the blue-collar fighters known as the Bums. The Yankees, well, not much has changed. They were the Yankees. The team from the Bronx always had the best players. They always won. And it seemed it was always the Dodgers that they were beating.

In 1947, the Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series. The Yankees won. Same story in 1949. And again in 1952 and 1953. They were first team to use the “wait ‘til next year!” slogan to keep faith. Except, this team was good.

Pee Wee Reese was the other half of the double play combination. Gil Hodges was one of the best first baseman around. Duke Snider was just as good as the other revered New York centerfielders (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke). Carl Furillo, “The Reading Rifle,” played right field. He had a cannon for an arm and swung a good bat too. Roy Campanella was the best catcher in the game. And Don Newcombe was an intimidating force on the mound. Brooklyn had four Hall of Famers on the team and a talented supporting cast.

But the Yankees were better. Berra, Rizzuto, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Ford were just some of the names from those championship squads.

The Yanks were better until 1955 when next year became this year for the Dodgers. Robinson’s club finally broke through and won the World Series behind a great effort from Johnny Podres. Beating the Yankees to win it made it special.

Jackie Robinson’s baseball narrative has many chapters. The Yankees are an extensive and interesting one. They were the cross-town rivals, the World Series nemesis, and the team he beat to get a ring. The New York connection made for a great rivalry and a great chapter of stories in Jack’s life.

The chapter fittingly came to life again Thursday. Rachel, his wife, was at Yankee Stadium to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. In a place where Robinson was the enemy for so many games, his memory is honored more than anywhere else in baseball.

Robinson Cano is named after the legend. Every time he steps on the field, he brings the memory of Jackie with him. While he never met Jackie, the connection is still there for Cano. He is proud to have that connection. He wears No. 24, Jackie’s number flipped. And he is grateful to his namesake for the opportunity to play this great game. Jackie’s memory is kept alive every day in the Bronx.

There was a time when Jackie was turning the double play with Pee Wee as the Dodgers took on the Yankees. Now, Cano turns two from second base with Derek Jeter. Once, Jackie hit liners into the gap and sped to second for a double. Today, Cano uses a sweet swing to pepper the gaps of Yankees Stadium.

On Thursday, Robinson’s memory could be felt throughout the stadium. After the pre-game ceremonies with Rachel and her daughter Sharon, Cano stepped to the plate and hit two home runs. It was a perfect way for him to honor his namesake on the 63rd anniversary of his major league debut. He carries his name with pride and it was easy to see before and after the game. He was thrilled to meet Rachel and he was certainly thrilled to play well with No. 42 on his back.

Cano was the story for the first eight innings of the game. The last one – as always in the Bronx – belonged to Mariano Rivera. And with a new character comes another story.

Rivera always wears No. 42, the sacred number that Robinson wore in Brooklyn. He is the last Major League player to wear the number. It was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997 – two years after Rivera made his major league debut. He was allowed to keep the number and over the years became worthy to honor Robinson’s legacy.

Rivera is a classy player. He is well respected in the game and takes the responsibility that comes with wearing No. 42 seriously. Every time he goes to the mound in the ninth, he carries Robinson with him. It could have been a burden, but Rivera made it into a blessing. He knows what the number means to the game and what Jackie did for him to be on the mound. So, he wants to be great like Jackie every time. He brings the same competitive fire with him and often gets the job done.

While wearing No. 42, he has become the greatest closer of all time. He closed out five World Series for the Bombers. The World Series – a fitting stage for him to shine considering that’s where Robinson’s story intersected with the Yankees.

The connection remains strong today. Cano and Rivera continue personal tributes. Derek Jeter has a close relationship with his family. And the entire New York community recognizes Jackie as a local hero.

Somewhere, Jackie probably appreciates that same Yankees organization he once hated.

The Yankees and the rest of baseball certainly appreciate him.

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