Jackie Robinson Day is a traditional event which occurs annually on April 15 in Major League Baseball (MLB), commemorating and honoring the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. Celebrated at MLB ballparks, on that one day, all players, coaches, and managers on both teams, and the umpires, wear Robinson’s uniform number, 42. April 15 was Opening Day in 1947, Robinson’s first season in the major leagues.
Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, the festivity is a result of Robinson’s memorable career, best known for becoming the first black major league baseball player of the modern era in 1947. His debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers (today’s Los Angeles Dodgers) ended approximately 80 years of baseball segregation, also known as the baseball color line, or color barrier. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Shea Stadium was one of the prominent venues hosting the event, having commemorated the retirement of Robinson’s number 42 jersey in 1997. Bob DuPuy, the president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball, described Jackie Robinson Day as a significance “not only for baseball, but for our country in general.”
Baseball players of Black African descent were excluded from Major League Baseball until 1947. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field before a crowd of 26,623 spectators, more than 14,000 of whom were black. By the late 1950s, the percentage of black players on Major League teams matched or exceeded that of the general population.
After baseball, Robinson became heavily involved working for the NAACP, campaigning for civil rights. Robinson worked with President Richard Nixon and the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller.
In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.
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