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Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

April 16, 2021

Did you see Jacki Robinson hit that ball?

Did he hit it? Boy, and that ain’t all.

He stole home.

Yes, yes, Jackie’s real gone.

– lyrics by Buddy Johnson

Baseball marks the start of Spring for me. It doesn’t matter what the calendar says. This year Opening Day was April 1st. No joke. (You know, not like last year.) In 1947 teams played a shorter schedule; 154 games rather than the 162 regular season games played currently.) That meant a later Opening Day. In fact, I can tell you that Opening Day in 1947 was April 15th.

I don’t know what day of the week it was. I really couldn’t tell you much about it at all. Except I know it was on April 15. In fact, yesterday, everyone knew celebrated Opening Day for the 1947 season. That might seem like a strange thing to celebrate.

They aren’t celebrating the day. They are celebrating first basemen. Okay, not all the first basemen. Just the Dodgers first baseman. Not the LA Dodgers, they played in Brooklyn 74 years ago. And on April 15, 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman was a man named Jackie Robinson. And prior to that game he was about to do something that hadn’t happened for 63 years, since 1884. A black man was going to take the field for a Major League Baseball team.

Robinson was already a star in the Negro Leagues. His first season with the Dodgers he played for their AAA team, the Montreal Royals. By 1947 he was ready for the Dodgers. The league was not always ready for Robinson. His first year he batted .297. He led the league in sacrifice hits at 28. He lead the league in stolen bases with 29. He also won the Rookie of the Year award. It was the first year it was offered.

Today, the Rookie of the Year award is called the Jackie Robinson award in his honor. Robinson wore number 42 when he put on Dodger blue that Spring day in 1947. Nobody wears number 42 in baseball anymore. The last player to wear 42 was the great Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. When he retired in 2013 the number 42 was also retired for good.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s MLB debut, MLB took the unprecedented step of retiring his number throughout all of baseball. No one would ever be allowed to wear it again.

Except. . .

Except that today, everyone wore #42. Every player, every ballboy, every manager. Every single player in the Major Leagues today wore #42 to celebrate that day three quarters of a century ago when the Dodgers brought up their new first basemen.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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