On Opening Day, April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first Black player to debut in Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier. Proving his greatness that transcended the racism of the day, in his full season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he averaged .297, an on-base percentage of .383, and a .427 slugging percentage. In total, he had 175 hits, scoring 125 runs ,31 doubles, 5 triples, 12 home runs, 48 runs for the year, and 29 stolen bases. In his first season, he went on to win the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award. Following his legendary 10-year career and his passing in 1972, MLB retired his No. 42 jersey in 1997.
In honor of his Hall of Fame achievements on the field and his social activism off the field, the MLB inaugurated “Jackie Robinson Day” in 2004, an annual tradition held throughout the league.
Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day in the 2023 season, the MLB also honored the 50th anniversary of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“I am thrilled to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jackie Robinson Foundation along with the first year of our new Jackie Robinson Museum,” said his granddaughter Ayo Robinson. “I thank Major League Baseball, the teams, players, and fans for celebrating this legacy on Saturday and throughout the year. On behalf of our family, I want to wish everyone a truly wonderful Jackie Robinson Day.”
After over 14 years of groundwork, the Jackie Robinson Museum opened its doors in New York City in 2022. The exhibit honors Robinson’s Hall of Fame career and his work in the Civil Rights Movement.
Across the league, many ballparks hosted activations that paid honor to Robinson and players donned apparel with his number and messages. Players wore a “42” side patch on all New Era caps with Nike Breaking Barriers T-shirts worn during batting practice, stance socks with the “42” logo, and commemorative base jewels and lineup cards will be used for each game. Since 2009, each player has worn the number 42 to pay homage to the iconic ballplayer.
Additionally, Nike released the customized Jackie Air Force 1 that big leaguers sported leading up to Jackie Robinson Day. Even NBA superstar LeBron James wore a pair that he shared on social media last week
The impact of Robinson integrating baseball is immeasurable. He blazed a trail that led to the Golden Age of Black baseball dominance and the ballplayers that followed him such as Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, and so many others.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jackie Robinson for his excellence as a player and his courage as a freedom fighter.