KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson on the day he broke the color barrier in baseball 72 years ago. Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field for the Dodgers and helped change the course of American history.
Seventy-two years later, the MLB pays homage to Robinson by having every player wear the number 42 on their jersey. While most associate Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said he wants people to remember that Jackie's legacy started with the Kansas City Monarchs prior to coming to the majors.
"He took that style of play that he learned in the Negro Leagues with him to the major leagues," Kendrick said. "The sacrifice that he made was tremendous. And, it helped move a country in a direction that we probably did not think could happen from a social perspective."
Robinson played for the Monarchs for one season in 1945. During his 47 games, he played shortstop for the team hitting .387 with five homers and 13 stolen bases. He then played in the minor leagues the following season with the AAA Montreal Royals before breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The league officially started celebrating Jackie Robinson Day in 2004. But, it wasn't until 2007 that players began wearing his number in Robinson's honor. Kendrick said he feels happy about the effort that the MLB has taken to celebrate the life of a man that played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement.
"I think Major League Baseball has done a fabulous job of helping people understand the magnitude of that moment that took place, you know, 72 years ago," Kendrick said. "That moment is etched in time. And, they've helped us remember Jackie — and rightfully so. It's important however that we not forget what Jackie was able to do.
You know, when I hear the magnitude of someone — the magnitude of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say, 'I could not have done what Jackie Robinson did,' that kind of gives up a better understanding of just how tremendous an accomplishment this was. And, I know it's reduced to baseball. But, you also have to understand the important role that baseball played in our society at that time and the reverence that it held. And, I think to still some greater extent, still holds great reverence," Kendrick finished.