Baseball to Honor First Black Major Leaguer

To honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy, Major League Baseball has established April 15 as "Jackie Robinson Day" throughout the Major Leagues, it was announced last week.

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig made the announcement with Sharon Robinson, daughter of Rachel and Jackie Robinson, and former National League President Leonard C. Coleman, the Chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

The announcement further honors Robinson's legacy by establishing April 15 as a day each year when every Major League Baseball Club will recognize the important social contributions Robinson made to our country. Jackie Robinson Day is one of the first programs to result from The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century. The Commissioner's Initiative, which was formed last year, has been charged with examining the current state of Major League Baseball and determining ways to improve it for the fans.

"I have often stated that baseball's proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field," said Selig.

"On that day, Jackie brought down the color barrier and ushered in the era in which baseball became the true national pastime. Fifty years after that historic event, in April 1997, I was proud to join Rachel Robinson and President Bill Clinton at Shea Stadium to honor Jackie by retiring his uniform number 42 in perpetuity. By establishing April 15 as 'Jackie Robinson Day' throughout Major League Baseball, we are further ensuring that the incredible contributions and sacrifices he made -- for baseball and society -- will not be forgotten."

"On behalf of our family and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, I would like to extend my thanks to Major League Baseball for creating an event that ensures Jackie's legacy will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of each new generation of Major League Baseball players and fans," said Rachel Robinson, wife of Jackie Robinson and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "April 15, 1947 was a day of great significance, not only for Major League Baseball, but in the fight for equality in this country. It is only fitting that the anniversary of this groundbreaking event should become a day for celebration and reflection at Major League ballparks."

On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first African American player in Major League Baseball, shattering a barrier that had kept players of color from playing in the Major Leagues for more than half a century. Robinson's courageous act opened the door for others, and by the late 1950s every Major League Baseball team had players of African and/or Latin descent. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier, Robinson's uniform number 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.

As part of Jackie Robinson Day 2004, special pre-game ceremonies are being planned for each ballpark hosting a game on April 15. Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to each game. Other details about Jackie Robinson Day events -- including a national celebration planned for Shea Stadium in New York that will air on MLB rightsholder TBS -- will be announced later this month.

Founded in 1973 by Rachel Robinson, The Jackie Robinson Foundation is a public, not-for-profit, national organization that awards four-year college scholarships to academically gifted students of color with financial need. Jackie Robinson scholars also participate in the Foundation's comprehensive support system that includes leadership development, mentoring programs and career counseling. The graduation rate among Jackie Robinson scholars is 92 percent. Major League Baseball supports scholarships to select Jackie Robinson/Major League Baseball Scholars and contributes to the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship endowment campaign. (http://www.jackierobinson.org)

In addition to its support of The Jackie Robinson Foundation, Major League Baseball operates and/or supports a number of other youth programs focused on game development and educational initiatives, including: Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Initiative and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.



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