On Sunday, April 15th, all 32 Major League Baseball clubs will honor Jackie Robinson with its annual Jackie Robinson Day celebrations. Here’s a look at what the San Diego Padres will be wearing and how they will be honoring the American hero.
On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field as the starting first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The future Hall of Famer went on to win the MLB Rookie of the Year Award and was the 1949 NL batting champion and Most Valuable Player.
Robinson retired after the 1956 season with a .311 career batting average and a World Series ring, playing his entire career in Brooklyn
He became a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s by breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, opening America’s Pastime to African American players and fans.
Despite the efforts of Robinson and hundreds of others after him, Major League Baseball still finds itself unable to successfully attract African American players.
At its peak in 1986, 19% of MLB players were African American. Today, that number sits at 8.4%, an ever so slight increase from 8.27% in 2016 and 2017 (according to the Associated Press).
Hunter Greene, last year’s top overall MLB draft pick, became the first African American high-school pitcher to be selected number one overall. Here’s an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated piece on him which made him the first African American high school athlete to appear on the cover of the magazine.
"This is exactly the kind of kid we desperately need, says one major league official. Greene is African-American, arriving at a time when baseball grapples with a dearth of African-American players. At six he started wearing Jackie Robinson’s number 42. At seven he talked with Dan Rather for a piece on AXS-TV about race and his chosen sport. At 13 he won an essay-writing contest that earned him a meeting with Robinson’™s daughter, Sharon. Last year he ate lunch on Ventura Boulevard with pal Dave Winfield to discuss the future of baseball. And last month he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Ladera Little League, situated in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. After his speech (œYour children are not being drafted today, he cautioned the parents. œIce cream after the game always works), Greene stood at the bottom of the mound on the Majors field, tears under his Aviators. œI get it, he said, in reference to the responsibility he is about to inherit."
Major League Baseball is trying to promote the game within the African American community, investing more than $30 million a year into inner-city programs and promoting events like the Andre Dawson Classic.
This past February, MLB Network televised the Classic, featuring six HBCU baseball teams. While exposure is increasing and the numbers show a slight uptick in African American athletes in baseball, a lot of work remains to be done.
While the San Diego Padres invest heavily in Latin America, the Friars featured only one African American player on this year’s Opening Day 25-man roster, Tyson Ross. Teams across Major League Baseball continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Latin America while avoiding inner-city America and investing very minimal time and money.
How the San Diego Padres will honor Jackie Robinson.
The Padres will take on the San Francisco Giants this Sunday at 1:00 pm PT as part of their Jackie Robinson celebration.
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Robinson was drafted into the US Army and was forced to serve in a segregated unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, a.k.a. The Black Panthers. While Robinson did not see the battlefield (due to an ankle injury suffered playing football), he did get his start in the fight to reverse Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case that legalized the “separate but equal” doctrine.
He was court-martialed after refusing to move to the back of a bus during training. The charges were dropped, and Robinson continued to fight for integration during his time in the military.
The Padres will wear a commemorative camo jersey which you can see in the link below. The jerseys feature a Jackie Robinson Day patch and the iconic “42” that each player, coach, and on-field personnel will wear.
Major League Baseball has also introduced commemorative Jackie Robinson Day socks that each player will wear.
While we celebrate Jackie Robinson’s legacy with stadiums full of the now-retired number 42, remember that his work is not complete. While you’re at the ballpark this Sunday or watching at home, take a second to remember his legacy. If you have children, take a moment to explain to them the importance of Jackie Robinson’s legacy as you pass down your love of baseball to them.