MLB pays tribute to man who broke color barrier

April 15, 1947, saw a 28-year-old rookie opening the season at first base after only a few weeks of work at the new position. He had always been a middle infielder, the batting champion and Most Valuable Player of the International League, but here he was at a strange position in the opening game of the National League season. <br><br>

Robinson to be honored annually The young man was hitless against Boston's Johnny Sain but he did score the winning run in a 5-3 Brooklyn victory. The game was played before 25,623 fans at Ebbets Field, and he handled 11 chances without an error.

However, he forever changed the course of Major League Baseball in particular, and American society in general. The rookie was, of course, Jackie Robinson and he was breaking the unwritten, unfair and incredibly ugly color barrier, becoming the first black player in modern baseball.

"I had to fight hard against loneliness, abuse and the knowledge that any mistake I made would be magnified because I was the only black man out there," Robinson would later recall in his autobiography, I Never Had It Made.

To honor the remarkable man, Major League Baseball announced that it has established April 15 as "Jackie Robinson Day" throughout the Major Leagues.

Commissioner Bud Selig made the announcement along with Robinson's daughter Sharon and former National League President Leonard C. Coleman, the Chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

The announcement further cements Robinson's legacy by establishing April 15 as a day each year when all 30 Major League clubs will recognize the important social contributions made by the Hall of Famer. 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 future development of Major League Baseball, with an emphasis on programs that will enhance the experience of MLB fans attending games at Major League ballparks or watching games on television.

"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," Selig said. "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, widow of Jackie Robinson and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Robinson's courageous act opened the door for others, and by the late 1950s every Major League team had at least one African-American or Latin-American player. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the barrier, Major League baseball in 1997 retired his uniform number 42 throughout both leagues.

As part of Jackie Robinson Day 2004, special pregame ceremonies are being planned for each ballpark that will be host to 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.