To many people in the United States, April 15 is tax day. For Major League Baseball, however, it is something much different.
On April 15, 1947, Jack “Jackie” Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Robinson became the first African-American to play in the all-white professional league at the time. Now on April 15, players all around Major League Baseball honor Robinson’s legacy by wearing his No. 42 on the backs of their jerseys — cementing the day as “Jackie Robinson Day.”
In Minor League Baseball, this is different. Certain teams in the minor leagues honor Robinson by wearing the No. 42, but not all teams in minor league baseball participate.
African-American players Chris Bostick and Kevin Keyes of the Harrisburg Senators — the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals — reflected on their thoughts before their game with the Reading Fightin Phils on Jackie Robinson Day.
“It means a lot. When you think about it and look back to see where we are now and where we used to be, it’s really not possible without everything that he has done,” Bostick said.
“I think that really everyone can say the same thing when it comes to equality and opportunity, that he is probably right up there with Martin Luther King — just helping the cause and letting everything be what it is now.”
“It means a lot. He really set the bar for African-Americans playing baseball,” Keyes said.
“In his time, colored people weren’t an equivalent race, but what he did to provide, and what he meant to the game today for African-American baseball players is huge. Going through the rough times of being called vulgar names and receiving death threats and stuff like that, I can only imagine the toughness he had. What he did and what he sacrificed really helped us be where we are today.”
Both Bostick and Keyes spoke highly of Major League Baseball’s effort to preserve Robinson’s legacy through the yearly honoring of Robinson with his No. 42 draped across every players shoulders.
“I think they do an incredible job. I think it’s awesome seeing every player wear No. 42,” Bostick said.
“I wish we could do it down here, and I think that it is something that is really important. He should be recognized and he deserves that recognition. I think that all the things [major league baseball] is doing and all the things they will do is earned and they should continue, for sure.”
“I think it’s amazing — for all races to come together on one day to honor a figure that sacrificed so much for his family and for himself to play the game that he loved. I think it’s just a great thing for baseball to remember him every year and remember the sacrifices and the way the game has changed since then,” Keyes said.
Even though not all minor league baseball players get the chance to wear the No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, both Bostick and Keyes both have had the opportunity to wear 42 in honor of Robinson.
“When I was in high school my junior and my senior year. I wore No. 42 for that reason. Thinking back on it, I kind of wished I wouldn’t have,” chuckled Bostick. “Not that I was disrespecting it — I was doing it for the right reasons — but I don’t know that I have really earned the right to wear that number. I wore the number [to remember Robinson] and for that reason specifically. It was an honor to do that.”
“I think it’s great. I actually have only worn it one time when I was in college my junior year,” Keyes said. “Jackie Robinson Day came up and we were playing, and I went to my equipment manager (to ask) if it was okay to wear the No. 42, and he asked my coach and he was all for it. For me, being able to do that was huge and I definitely won’t forget it.”
On April 15, 1997, Major League Baseball retired the No. 42 league-wide. This left Mariano Rivera as last player to ever wear the number in the history of the league. No other player has had a jersey retired league-wide in the four major professional sports leagues.
“I think it’s awesome,” Bostick said. “Like I said before, it’s something that was earned. I think its something that is a big honor to not have any other player to be able to wear your number. That’s not even just with one team either; it’s across all of Major League Baseball. That’s a huge sign of respect and I think he earned every bit of that, and I am glad that they did that.”
In the game, Bostick picked up two hits including an RBI-single. Bostick also scored a run. Keyes smashed a grand slam home run to left-center, giving him four RBI’s on the night.
Both players were spectacular April 15, playing great baseball on a very special day. Players around major and minor league baseball will continue to honor Robinson every year, allowing a special player, and an even greater figure, to be remembered annually.