Jackie O Dog

For the second consecutive year Major League Baseball recognized April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day. As part of this celebration commissioner Bud Selig “un-retired” Jackie Robinson’s number 42 and allowed any player or coach to don this uniform to pay tribute to this civil rights leader. Last year the Arizona Diamondbacks played at home and several players gladly elected to wear number 42. Those players included Tony Clark, Orlando Hudson, Chris Young, and Eric Byrnes. First base coach Lee Tinsley also wore the number to pay tribute to Robinson. I happened to be at that game and can truthfully say that it was awe inspiring to see these players wearing that number. Robinson was such an amazing person and the event of him playing in the major leagues was both historic and in ways frightening. To read accounts of what he had to endure just to play baseball is heart wrenching. After my experience last year I was eagerly awaiting Jackie Robinson Day to once again see how baseball would pay tribute to probably the most important event in the history of organized sports.

The Diamondbacks this year were in San Francisco to play the Giants for Jackie Robinson Day. That day also marked the 50th anniversary of the first game the Giants played in San Francisco after moving from New York. April 15, 1958 the Giants played host to their nemesis and relocation partners the Los Angeles Dodgers. There were pre-game ceremonies that celebrated the event. I fully appreciate the significance of that but I did feel that it somewhat diminished the commemoration of Jackie Robinson Day. It was nice seeing Willie Mays and to hear the fans cheer for this great player. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Like last year the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves wearing their Sedona Red jerseys for this commemorative day. I don’t think there is anything to that except it is an interesting coincidence since the Diamondbacks always wear Sedona Red on Sundays and Tuesdays. I blame Leap Year for this anomaly. I was curious which Diamondbacks players would choose to wear number 42. I assumed that Lee Tinsley, Chris Young and Eric Byrnes would again elect to change their numbers. Added to the list of Diamondbacks players wearing 42 was right fielder Justin Upton who was in the minor leagues and not with the team last year. The final member of the Arizona players to wear this special number was team leader Orlando Hudson. With the departure of Tony Clark the mantle of clubhouse leader falls directly on the shoulders of Orlando Hudson. When baseball announced that they would again allow players to pay tribute to Jackie Robinson on this day Orlando Hudson leapt at the opportunity.

“It’s definitely an honor for all that my man went through for us. Not just African-Americans, but for baseball. There’s so much you can say about Jackie Robinson. It’s eye-dripping to sit here and talk about him. There aren’t words. I can’t put it into words.”

Orlando Hudson
Diamondbacks second baseman

Orlando Hudson is rarely at a loss for words but to watch and listen as he explained what Jackie Robinson meant to him as well as what he meant to baseball was a humbling experience. As a baseball fan growing up I had my favorite players that I watched and rooted for. In many cases they were my heroes. Some of these players deserved our loyalty and admiration but none were truly heroes with the exception of Jackie Robinson. In a country filled with division and segregation he bridged the gap and made baseball truly the national pastime and not one that was separated along color lines. I appreciate all that he did for the game that I love. I’m grateful to the commissioner’s office for setting aside a day that we can remember this great man and for Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Junior for having the insight to make the request to wear Jackie’s number. It has brought life to this celebration and allowed fans everywhere an opportunity to learn more about the accomplishments Robinson made and to appreciate the struggles facing not just him but everyone who was viewed as being a little different.

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