MLB makes April 15 Jackie Robinson Day

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2004

NEW YORK Jackie Robinson will be honored every April 15 by Major League Baseball, starting with a national celebration at Shea Stadium paying tribute to the Hall of Famer's legacy.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced Jackie Robinson Day on Wednesday, saying ''we are further ensuring that the incredible contributions and sacrifices he made for baseball and society will not be forgotten.''

Robinson will be honored each year at all major league ballparks hosting a game on April 15, the anniversary of the date he broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 with Brooklyn.

Fenway Park and the new stadiums in Philadelphia and San Diego will be among 13 parks holding games this April 15.

Selig and members of Robinson's family will be on hand in New York for the Atlanta-Mets game. Baseball expects to extend an invitation to President Bush.

At Shea in 1997, President Clinton was in attendance when Robinson's No. 42 was permanently retired. Players wearing the number were still allowed to use it, and Mariano Rivera and Mo Vaughn remain active.

Balls with a ''42'' logo will be used on Jackie Robinson Day and scholars from the Jackie Robinson Foundation will throw out the first balls. Other details will be announced later.

''I think it is very important that we pause to remember my father and his legacy,'' daughter Sharon Robinson said. ''Having a day set aside to honor my father will keep us all working toward equity with race and gender issues.''

Former NL president Len Coleman, instrumental in the 1997 celebration, said the idea for Jackie Robinson Day started about two months ago.

Coleman said he recalled watching Robinson as a boy, thinking the Dodgers star was trying to unnerve opposing pitchers with his daring style. Coleman said he later came to realize ''what he was really doing as he danced off first base was challenging America.''

At Vero Beach, Fla., former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda applauded the move.

''I played with him. He was a tremendous competitor. What he did was not only great for baseball, it was great for the country,'' the Hall of Famer said. ''The guy deserves it for all did. Why not honor him? That's good.''

Dodgers bench coach Manny Mota also was glad to see Robinson celebrated.

''I think that's great for baseball. He did so much for the game. That's a great way to pay tribute to a great legend,'' Mota said at Dodgertown, the same complex where Robinson trained in the mid-1950s.

''He opened the door for us. So we've got to show him appreciation and recognition for that,'' he said. ''That's a great gesture, for baseball to do that for him.''

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