New York City is honoring the 75th anniversary of the late Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in a big way. The iconic 42nd Street and Broadway intersection in Manhattan has been temporarily renamed “Jackie Robinson Way” on Friday.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, along with Robinson’s eldest granddaughter, Sonya Pankey, and Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre, unveiled a blue-and-white street sign showcasing Robinson’s logos to commemorate the 75 years.
Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. While baseball is known as America’s pastime, Manfred said it did not become so until “Jackie and those who followed him” integrated the sport.
“Jackie’s courage was a beacon for much-needed change, both for our game and for our society,” Manfred said. “Throughout his trailblazing Hall of Fame career, Jackie set baseball on a new course, and in doing so, he inspired those who would lead the civil rights movement and those who would support that movement.”
Robinson paved the way for legends like Larry Doby, Henry “Hank” Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Bob Gibson. The six-time All-Star also made it possible for players like Griffey, who initiated MLB’s tradition for players to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, to enjoy the sport he loves.
“If it wasn’t for him, maybe my dad would have never played. Maybe I would have never played,” Griffey said. “[Robinson] went through things that I can’t imagine … and I don’t have to go through that because that man did it for us and he did it for this country.”
Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson’s No. 42 jersey league-wide during a ceremony midway through the Dodgers-Mets game on April 15, 1997.
Rivera, who spent his entire career with the Yankees, was the last player to wear the No. 42 on a regular basis. However, the 13-time All-Star, who admits he did not know much about Robinson’s impact when entering the league, went on to learn about the groundbreaking player and is thankful for his legacy.
“Coming from my beautiful Panama, I didn’t know much about professional baseball. … I was given No. 42 and someone asked about Mr. Jackie Robinson. I said, ‘Who is that? I’ve got no clue,’” Rivera said via MLB.com. “But in 1997 when they started doing all these things [to honor Robinson] and removing No. 42 from baseball, I said, ‘Wait a minute. I have to learn about who this man is.’
“And I learned about Mr. Jackie Robinson and I was proud because I had the number. … I just wanted to bring his legacy to a different level. I wanted Mr. Jackie Robinson to be proud of me. Because what he did for us, it was amazing, and we just wanted to return what he did for us. We couldn’t do nothing but play the game that he loved to play and do the best that we could, and I think we did that. So he’s in heaven, looking down and saying he’s proud. He’s definitely proud.”