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Jackie Robinson Day 2021: All You Need To Know As MLB Celebrates First African American Player

Newsweek logo Newsweek 4/15/2021 Dan Cancian
a man wearing a baseball hat: Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey talking to his second sacker Jackie Robinson at a team training camp in Vero Beach, Florida, 17th March 1949. The MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day on April 15-16 this year. © Curt Gunther/Keystone/Archive Photos/Getty Images Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey talking to his second sacker Jackie Robinson at a team training camp in Vero Beach, Florida, 17th March 1949. The MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day on April 15-16 this year.

The MLB will pay homage to one of its most iconic players over the next two days, with the league and all 30 teams celebrating Jackie Robinson Day.

In 1947, Robinson broke the so-called baseball color line when he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers—which have since relocated to Los Angeles—in front of 26,000 fans at Ebbets Field, New York, becoming the first African American player to feature in the majors.

For almost eight decades the color line had excluded players of African American descent from playing for MLB teams and their minor league affiliates, until Robinson tore the barrier down on Opening Day of the 1947 season, which fell on April 15.

Robinson was named Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was a six-time All-Star during 10 seasons in the MLB, winning the World Series Title in 1955 as the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees 4-3.

A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962, Robinson made history again three years later, becoming the first Black television analyst in MLB history, when he worked on ABC's Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts.

The MLB has celebrated April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day since 2004, when then-commissioner Doug Selig introduced an official commemoration of the Georgia native's majors debut with the Dodgers.

Seven years earlier, Selig had retired Robinson's No. 42 throughout the majors, which players, coaches and managers of all 30 MLB teams have worn on Jackie Robinson Day beginning from 2009.

This year will be no different as players, managers, coaches, umpires and on-field personnel will wear Robinson's iconic number in games played on April 15 and April 16—the extra day has been designed to allow teams not playing on Thursday to appropriately commemorate Jackie Robinson Day.

In a release, the MLB announced all licensed royalties from the sales of caps featuring the "42" logo will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

According to MLB estimates, since the introduction of Jackie Robinson Day, the league and the 30 clubs have contributed approximately $20 million to the foundation.

Meanwhile, over 100 members of The Players Alliance—a non-profit organization founded by a group of active and former MLB players seeking to improve representation of Black Americans in the sport—will donate either their full or partial game-day salary on Jackie Robinson Day.

Last year, the Players Alliance raised over $1 million on the day.

Dodgers pitcher and 2020 World Series champion David Price, Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward and 2018 World Series winner Jackie Bradley Jr. are among the players who have pledged to take part in the initiative.

"On April 15, we honor Jackie Robinson as the first player to break the color barrier, a reminder there is still much work to be done in our game," Curtis Granderson, president of The Players Alliance, said in a statement.

As The Players Alliance seeks to bridge the gap of racial inequity in baseball, we're encouraging players, on this date especially, to consider supporting the Alliance and our efforts to continue Jackie's legacy of breaking barriers."

On Thursday, MLB Network will air a special commemoration for Robinson, which will include an interview with Chadwick Boseman, who played the Robinson in the 2013 movie 42.

Boseman died on August 28, 2020, incidentally the same day the MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day last season after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to postpone the start of its regular season from March to July.

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