Every baseball fan knows the story of Jackie Robinson, who first integrated the league, breaking in with Branch Rickey’s 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and enduring taunts and persecution that no human being should have to put up with.
Not only was Robinson the first to break the color barrier, he was also an incredible baseball player. He won the Rookie of the Year award, a MVP, and was selected an all-star six times in his ten MLB seasons. His career batting numbers are .311/.409/.474, and he played at a high level all over the diamond, primarily at second base.
Every year, baseball sets aside Robinson’s birthday, April 15th (today for those who haven’t look at a calendar in a couple weeks,) to celebrate his legacy. Typically this takes the form of pre-game ceremonies, and every player in the league wearing Robinson’s otherwise-retired #42. This year, there is no baseball, and no gatherings of any kind, so Major League Baseball is giving you a variety of ways to participate at home, at least six feet away from anyone you don’t live with.
The programming begins at 8 am central, with MLB.com streaming 12 straight hours of Robinson and baseball related programming.
8:00 a.m.: 2012 Jackie Robinson Day (Padres vs. Dodgers) with highlights including a home run by Matt Kemp, a triple play by the Dodgers defense, and a walk-off home run by Dee Gordon.
12:00 p.m.: 1955 World Series Film, highlighting the first World Series title in Dodger franchise history and the only championship in Brooklyn. The film also features Jackie’s famous steal of home against the New York Yankees.
1:00 p.m.: Letters To Jackie MLB Network special, which focuses on Jackie’s role in the American civil rights movement, primarily after he retired from baseball. The story is told in Jackie’s own words, with letters he wrote throughout his lifetime to his wife, Rachel, his children, pen pals and political figures such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
2:00 p.m.: April 15, 1997 Game & Ceremony at Shea Stadium (Dodgers vs. Mets) featuring the historic moment when Commissioner Emeritus Allan H. (Bud) Selig retired Jackie’s #42 league-wide alongside Rachel Robinson and President Bill Clinton, marking the 50th anniversary of Jackie breaking Baseball’s color barrier.
5:00 p.m.: 2019 Jackie Robinson Day (Mets vs. Phillies) with highlights including Commissioner Manfred and Jamie Foxx participating in the ceremonial first pitch, and Bryce Harper and Robinson Canó.
The MLB Network will also be showing Robinson-related programming all day. This includes several games from Jackie Robinson days past. Even if this means we have to watch a Yankees victory, its baseball. The network’s programming is headlined by the two-part Ken Burns documentary, airing at 6:00 pm central.
Its not just things to sit on the couch and watch though—all MLB social media channels will be heavily involved.
Throughout the day, MLB will feature custom, original Jackie-inspired content across MLB’s social media accounts (MLB, Cut4, PlayBall, MajorLeagueLife, MLBDevelops), including a timeline graphic of Jackie’s life, interactive games for kids, eye-catching graphics, and more. Featured participants will include Major League players, student-athletes of MLB’s diversity-focused youth initiatives (e.g. the Hank Aaron Invitational, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, MLB Youth Academy, Trailblazer Series), and more.
MLB also will stream the 1955 World Series film at 7:00 p.m. ET on MLB YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as Las Mayores Facebook and Twitter.
Fans are invited to celebrate the day and post recorded messages and photos on social media of what Jackie and his legacy mean to them, using the hashtag #Jackie42.
There will also be a concert of sorts put on on instagram as a capstone event. DJ Envy, whoever that is, will take to the social platform at 6pm, and will be joined by MLB Players and other celebrity guests. I doubt it, but still hope Joe Mauer shows up to spin a disc or two. That being said, I’ll probably be watching Ken Burns, since the two events are going on at the same time.
And last, but certainly not least, if you’re stuck at home trying to find things for kids to do, baseball will be giving you a lot of options tomorrow.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) will launch the new “Jackie Robinson Day Virtual Learning Hub,” a platform to deliver educational programming to educators and parents for students in grades K-12, at JRLegacy.org. Divided appropriately by age groups, the programming will address different aspects of Jackie’s life and legacy. The Hub will feature video vignettes of Jackie’s daughter, Sharon, as well as former MLB players (including CC Sabathia and MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds), reading excerpts of her book Jackie Robinson: American Hero. Additional resources will include conversational prompts for in-home discussion and more.
MLB also will feature virtual and printable education activities aimed at providing kids information on Jackie’s life and legacy at MLB.com/42. Activities include a coloring page, crossword puzzle, connect-the-dots and word search.
Not only are the league and their partners providing ways to celebrate, the 30 MLB teams will also be doing so.
The Minnesota Twins will engage fans with a video featuring players, coaches and alumni discussing the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson on their own lives and careers, and on baseball, sports and society as a whole. The Twins also will continue their work to ensure Jackie’s legacy inspires the next generation, providing a series of Club-specific worksheets designed to educate children on Jackie’s life and impact – the “who” and “why” behind the #42 kids see in left field every game at Target Field. Videos and worksheets will be shared via Twins social media channels and at Twinsbaseball.com.
While we all miss baseball, and its sad we cannot celebrate the legacy of the man who literally forever changed the face of the game, there are plenty of options open to you. Thanks to league, the teams, and their partners, there might be more ways than ever before to engage with the Jackie Robinson story and his impact on American society.
How will you be celebrating today?