Houston manager Dusty Baker celebrated Jackie Robinson’s legacy on the 73rd anniversary of the fall of the major league color barrier and lamented the lack of African Americans in today’s game ‘hui.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve been talking about it forever … but it looks like the numbers are going down, not up,” Baker said on Wednesday.
Last year, only 7.7% of major league players on the opening day were African Americans, up from 17% in 1990. Baker and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is the only two Afro managers -American majors.
Baker appreciates that the league is making a “conscious effort” to involve more young African Americans in baseball through programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and is optimistic about a turnaround in the years to come.
“Hopefully in this decade and the next decade, more guys will have a chance,” said Baker. “All they need is a chance. Lots of guys have been bypassed and neglected. “
Robinson crossed the color barrier on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His number 42 was withdrawn from the major leagues in 1997 by then commissioner Bud Selig. An annual Jackie Robinson day started in 2004 and since 2009, all players, managers and coaches have worn his number 42 to mark the day.
A museum in New York dedicated to Robinson remains under construction but there have been repeated delays in fundraising and construction.
With the start of the baseball season suspended due to the new coronavirus, Robinson’s contributions have been celebrated this year virtually.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation launched a virtual learning center to coincide with the day, and teams and players from across the league turned to social media and other online platforms to commemorate the occasion.
CC Sabathia and Harold Reynolds were among the former great leaguers reading excerpts from Robinson’s daughter Sharon’s book, “Jackie Robinson: American Hero”. It appeared in video thumbnails and there are virtual and printable educational activities.
Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson spent time on a video call with 10 students from the White Sox Amateur City Elite program. Defending AL batter champion answered questions and spoke about Robinson’s legacy and the responsibility he feels to involve more African Americans in the game.
“There aren’t really a lot of black kids in the league,” said the 26-year-old. “So who will motivate these children? Who will inspire them? It’s something I’m proud of. I’m always looking forward to wearing # 42. ”
TULCO, the holding company founded by Thomas Tull, which produced the movie Robinson “42,” announced Wednesday that it has donated $ 4.2 million in personal protective equipment to organizations that serve communities. African Americans and other communities in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The donation includes scrubs, masks and isolation gowns and will be distributed to hospitals most affected by COVID-19.
The Seattle Mariners, one of the top active players in the major leagues with nine African American players, hosted a roundtable on YouTube to discuss Robinson’s contributions. It was chaired by Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims and included second base players Dee Gordon and Shed Long, outfielder Mallex Smith and Reynolds, a former sailor and current broadcaster of the MLB Network, and Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museum.
The Nationals tweeted a video highlighting Robinson’s highlights, which included photos of various players and staff members and their families wearing Robinson number 42 shirts and placards honoring the legend.
“This is one of the biggest days on the major leagues calendar – and the calendar in general,” said Washington chief executive Mike Rizzo. “He is one of the most important people in American society, not just sports. It’s a fitting tribute that we have a day to honor him every year and it’s very fitting that it is during the baseball season. Although we will not be playing any games this year, we will definitely stop and remember what it has meant for the game of baseball and for the American fabric. “
The Orioles took part in the celebration by asking indoor field player Richie Martin to read “My Little Guest Book on Jackie Robinson” in the digital kids’ corner of the team. Martin is the grandson of Walter “Bancy” Thomas, who played in the black leagues and was a teammate with Robinson in 1945 with the Kansas City Monarchs before breaking the color barrier.
Baker did not get to meet Robinson but heard many stories about him from Hank Aaron and other players and managers. He idolized Robinson growing up because of the stories his father had told him since he was a young child.
“He was a man who allowed me to not only play but also manage and gave us all great pride in being a black American,” said Baker.
Roberts spoke about his plans for the day on a radio show in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning.
“I think I’m going to celebrate today by continuing to educate my son and daughter about Jackie… just take the time to go back and realize and talk about what he meant not only for baseball but also for our country and the world ”. Said Roberts.
While baseball players and managers have embraced Robinson’s celebration online, some have expressed disappointment at not being able to give his number this season and have wondered if there is a way to make up the day.
“Dear @MLB, if / when the season starts again, can we have a day when we all wear number 42? This is my favorite alternative jersey of the year. Very good, please, “Pirates right-hander Chris Archer tweeted.
If / when the season starts again, can we have a day when we all wear number 42? This is my favorite alternative jersey of the year. Pretty please
– Chris Archer (@ ChrisArcher22) April 15, 2020