Jackie Robinson Day Celebrated

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated the third annual Jackie Robinson Day, a day that is recognized in every Major League ballpark across the nation, on Saturday, April 15.

The Dodgers hosted Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, along with 10 local Jackie Robinson scholars - one of whom threw out the first pitch to Dodger outfielder Kenny Lofton. Don Newcombe, Jackie Robinson's former teammate, a Dodger legend and currently the Dodgers' Director of Community Relations, was on hand to honor his former teammate. A video tribute to Robinson was played before the game.

In addition, the first 50,000 fans in attendance at Dodger Stadium for the April 15 game received a Jackie Robinson poster, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

Robinson compiled a lifetime .311 batting average with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947-56. He was the Major League's first Rookie of the Year, an award which today bears his name. Robinson was the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1949 and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired by all Major League Baseball teams.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Robinson's Minor League debut with Newcombe and Roy Campanella. Brooklyn Dodger President and co-owner Branch Rickey famously announced the signing of Robinson on October 23, 1945 and assigned him to the Dodgers' Minor League affiliate, the Montreal Royals for the 1946 season.

Campanella and Newcombe signed shortly thereafter and began the 1946 season playing for the Nashua Dodgers of the Class B New England League. There they became the first two African-American teammates to play for an affiliated United States baseball team in the modern era in addition to being managed by future Dodger Hall of Famer Walter Alston.

Newcombe will be honored at The Jackie Robinson Foundation's Celebrating Excellence Gala slated for May 11 at The Beverly Hilton. The event pays tribute to individuals who embody Jackie Robinson's commitment to public service and equal opportunity. Newcombe will be honored along with trailblazing entertainment executive Suzanne de Passe.

"Jackie was and still is my idol," Newcombe said. "I know he was very instrumental in my becoming a winner at the major league level and I will always remember him as the person who helped me and helped the Dodgers become the champions they became during the ten years we were together with them."

Since its inception, the Jackie Robinson Foundation has supported more than 1,100 scholarship recipients. Currently, there are 266 Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars attending 93 colleges and universities in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars maintain a 97% graduation rate, more than twice the national average for minority students. There are currently 23 Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars attending schools in Los Angeles.

2006 marks the second year of the Los Angeles Dodgers' "Team 42" Scholarship Program, which awards $105,000 a year to local students through the Jackie Robinson Foundation.