April 15th, 2023
A version of this story was originally published in April 2020.
Jackie Robinson is an unmatched figure in baseball history. When he broke the game’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, it was a monumental moment not only on the field, but also in world history. Since 2004, MLB has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day every April 15, and as we have reached that date again, here’s a look at the top 10 Jackie Robinson Day moments from over the years.
1) 2004: Selig declares April 15 “Jackie Robinson Day” across MLB
Commissioner Bud Selig, along with Sharon Robinson (daughter of Jackie and Rachel Robinson) and Leonard C. Coleman, the chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, announced that April 15 would be celebrated annually as “Jackie Robinson Day” across Major League Baseball. Seven years earlier, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier by starting at second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Selig announced that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired in perpetuity.
2) 2007: Players start wearing No. 42
Beginning on April 15, 2007, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, players began wearing the No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. It started with Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. asking Rachel Robinson for permission to don the number on April 15, and Commissioner Bud Selig encouraged other players to do the same. Two years later, it became a universal tribute across the Majors, with all players wearing the No. 42 each Jackie Robinson Day.
3) 2017: Jackie Robinson statue unveiled at Dodger Stadium
On the 70th anniversary of when he took the field for the Dodgers and broke baseball’s color barrier, Jackie Robinson’s likeness was captured in a beautiful statue outside Dodger Stadium. The statue depicts Robinson sliding, reminiscent of his famous steals of home plate, including his famed swipe of home against Yogi Berra and the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
4) 2022: Jackie Robinson Way unveiled in New York City
As part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947, MLB, in partnership with the City of New York, announced that 42nd Street and Broadway would be temporarily renamed “Jackie Robinson Way.” Commissioner Rob Manfred; Sonya Pankey, the eldest granddaughter of Robinson and his wife, Rachel; Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera — the last Major Leaguer to wear No. 42 — and Joe Torre; and former big leaguers Willie Randolph, CC Sabathia and Butch Huskey all took part in the special unveiling ceremony.
5) 2006: Rachel Robinson participates in pregame ceremony at Shea
In a very special pregame ceremony on Jackie Robinson Day in 2006, the Mets welcomed Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, back to Shea Stadium prior to their game against the Brewers. A video tribute to Jackie was played on the scoreboard, and afterward Rachel addressed the crowd from in front of the pitcher’s mound.
6) 2007: Aaron and Robinson throw out ceremonial first pitches
Two of the greatest Black players in baseball history, Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, threw out ceremonial first pitches at Dodger Stadium prior to the Dodgers’ game against the Padres on Jackie Robinson Day in 2007. Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record on April 8, 1974, when he hit the 715th of 755 career homers. Robinson remains the only player in MLB history to win the MVP Award in both leagues. He also became the first Black manager in MLB history when he took the helm for Cleveland in 1975.
7) 2015: Civil Rights Game at Dodger Stadium
The Dodgers hosted the annual Civil Rights Game on Jackie Robinson Day in 2015, and Los Angeles jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the Mariners on RBI singles by Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke in the first inning. The Dodgers never looked back, adding RBI singles later in the contest by Adrián González and Joc Pederson to back a strong start from Brett Anderson, who gave up two runs over five innings in the 5-2 victory.
8) 2005: Dodgers wear Brooklyn throwback uniforms from 1947
The Dodgers wore replicas of the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform Robinson wore when breaking the color barrier in 1947. Veteran right-hander Derek Lowe was the hero in this game, pitching a four-hit shutout of the Padres in a 4-0 victory at Dodger Stadium.
9) 2008: Griffey hits his 595th career home run
All players around MLB wearing the No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day can be traced back to one — Ken Griffey Jr. And Griffey got ever closer to the 600-homer milestone on that day in 2008, when he crushed No. 595 off the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster in the third inning of the Reds’ 9-5 loss at Wrigley Field.
10) 2010: Canó, named after Jackie, belts pair of homers; Rivera gets save
Robinson Canó was named after Jackie Robinson. So it was only natural that Canó would hit two home runs on Jackie Robinson Day in 2010 against the Angels. He helped lift the Yankees to a 6-2 victory at Yankee Stadium by hammering a solo homer off Scott Kazmir in the second inning, followed by a two-run shot off Kazmir in the fifth. In the same game, legendary closer Mariano Rivera, the final player permitted to wear the number 42, picked up the save.