Dodgers to Celebrate Jackie Robinson Day

The Dodgers and all of baseball celebrate Jackie Robinson Night this evening. At Dodger Stadium and the entire team will wear #42 in his honor. Special Advisor to the Chairman Don Newcombe will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Matt Kemp and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tommy Davis, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Tommy Lasorda are all expected to participate in the on-field ceremony.

In addition, the Dodgers will honor this year's Jackie Robinson Team 42 Scholars and the National Anthem will be sung by R&B singer and songwriter Jeffrey Osbourne, who is best known for his hit song "On the Wings of Love."

Special Advisor to the Chairman Don Newcombe, who was a former teammate of Robinson, will throw out a ceremonial first pitch to Dodger center fielder Matt Kemp and Newcombe and Abdul-Jabbar will address the crowd during pregame ceremonies. The National Anthem and God Bless America will be sung by R&B singer and songwriter Jeffrey Osbourne, who is best known for his hit song "On the Wings of Love."

  The entire Dodger team will wear number 42 in Jackie Robinson's honor. The Dodgers will also wear number 42 during Friday's game.

  Earlier today, "Sweet" Lou Johnson represented the Dodgers in front of the city of Los Angeles city council and spoke on behalf of the organization as the city declared April 15, 2010 Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles.

   For the second consecutive year, Commissioner Bud Selig has invited all players and uniformed personnel to wear the late Hall of Famer's famous No. 42. That number was retired by decree of the Commissioner throughout baseball on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

  What once was a voluntary gesture has now become standard fare on the day baseball remembers the great Robinson.

  "April 15, 1947, is a day that resonates with history throughout Major League Baseball," Selig said. "With all Major League players, coaches and umpires wearing Jackie's No. 42, we hope to demonstrate the magnitude of his impact on the game of baseball. Major League Baseball will never forget the contributions that Jackie made both on and off the field."

  The Dodgers request that they are scheduled for a home game on April 15 so they can properly remember Robinson. His signature 60th anniversary was celebrated at Dodger Stadium in 2007.

  Even clubs that are not hosting games today will have an opportunity to honor Robinson, as any team that is not playing at home will hold Jackie Robinson Day celebrations at their ballparks during another home stand in April. The celebration at each ballpark will include a ceremonial home plate and special lineup cards to commemorate the day.

  Jackie's Foundation offers a $10,000 scholarship toward college tuition for minority students. Since the organization was founded in 1973 by Rachel Robinson, it has awarded $18 million in scholarships to more than 1,300 people.

  This season, as part of today's celebration, a single No. 42 jersey from each club will be signed and auctioned off on MLB.com. All proceeds will benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

  Two years ago, MLB made a $1.2 million commitment to the Robinson Foundation over a four-year period to fund scholarships in the name of each of the 30 clubs. Each year, $300,000 is invested, representing 30 $10,000 scholarships.

  Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain and all-time hits leader, donates a scholarship in perpetuity at the $250,000 level. "Being African-American, he was one of the first players I learned about," said Jeter, born in 1974 and now 35. "Obviously I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for his legacy, but more importantly for me, it's the relationship that I've built up with his daughter and wife throughout the years. Getting to know them and how special they are just goes to show how special he had to be."

  Robinson's becoming the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues prefaced the integration of the U.S. military and public schools. He led an influx into the Majors of great black players that included Larry Doby, Satchel Page, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. On Robinson's own team, Joe Black, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam were to follow.

  "Unretiring" Robinson's number was the brainchild of Ken Griffey Jr., who is back in his second tour with the Mariners. Three years ago, Griffey personally petitioned the Commissioner for the opportunity to wear it. Selig agreed, initially allowing uniformed personnel to do so at their own discretion. "It's just my way of giving that man his due respect," Griffey said at the time. "I just called Bud and asked him if I could do it. He made a couple of phone calls and said, 'Yeah.' We had a good conversation. It was about me wearing it on that day, and only that day." Griffey, of course, couldn't have foreseen the trend he started.

  Ironically, the famous number was established because of pure luck.

In 1947, Robinson was simply issued No. 42 without any input as he prepared to break into the Major Leagues. When Robinson entered the snug home clubhouse in Ebbets Field, "The Dodgers had not yet assigned him a locker so he found his uniform hanging on a hook attached to a bare wall," wrote Jonathan Eig in his book about Robinson's first season, entitled "Opening Day."

No. 42 was simply issued by then Dodgers clubhouse man John Griffin.

Two other players wore that number in Dodgers history: George Jeffcoat in 1939 and Ray Lamb in 1969. Lamb was so embarrassed about wearing it that he turned the number back in after that season.

Now, for the second consecutive Jackie Robinson Day, everyone in uniform will be wearing it. "Believe me," Selig said, "it makes me very happy."

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