2003-08-07 / Other News

Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson: Dodger Legend’s Number Retired By Cyclones

With apologies to songwriter Paul Simon: "Here
By Neil S. Friedman
Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson: Dodger Legend’s Number Retired By Cyclones

Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson: Dodger Legend’s Number Retired By Cyclones


Rachel Robinson (center), widow of late Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, holds the jersey with his number that was officially retired by the Brooklyn Cyclones at a ceremony at KeySpan Park last Sunday. Flanking her are Mayor Michael Bloomberg and daughter Sharon.Rachel Robinson (center), widow of late Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, holds the jersey with his number that was officially retired by the Brooklyn Cyclones at a ceremony at KeySpan Park last Sunday. Flanking her are Mayor Michael Bloomberg and daughter Sharon.

By Neil S. Friedman

With apologies to songwriter Paul Simon: "Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson, Brooklyn loves you more than you could know…"

Legendary Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired by major league baseball in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his rookie season. Last Sunday, in a touching ceremony at KeySpan Park in Coney Island, attended by his widow, Rachel, who hadn’t watched baseball in Brooklyn since her husband retired, and daughter, Sharon, and several dignitaries, the Hall of Famer’s number was formally retired by the Brooklyn Cyclones in the borough where he played his entire career.

Before the brief, pre-game observance on the field, a tribute to Robinson’s baseball career was shown on the left field video screen. Joining the Robinsons for the presentation of a Cyclones’ jersey emblazoned with number "42," were Joan Hodges, widow of former Dodger teammate Gil Hodges, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was greeted by a hearty chorus of boos when he was introduced, local City Council member Dominic Recchia and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who proclaimed "Jackie Robinson Day on behalf of 2 1/2 million Brooklyn residents."


Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is now permanently displayed on the upper deck railing at KeySpan Park, right next to former Brooklyn Dodger teammate Gil Hodges’ No. 14.		 Photos by Sonny MaxonJackie Robinson’s No. 42 is now permanently displayed on the upper deck railing at KeySpan Park, right next to former Brooklyn Dodger teammate Gil Hodges’ No. 14. Photos by Sonny Maxon

"Today is special," Rachel Robinson told the KeySpan crowd. Later, after her husband’s number 42 was unveiled flanking former teammate Gil Hodges’ number 14, she added, "To see Jackie’s number displayed so predominantly is a great thrill…Thank you for honoring Jack and for keeping up the great tradition of Brooklyn baseball."

Mayor Bloomberg said, "Jackie Robinson changed the world. He said it really didn’t matter what color your skin was or what your background was, but you should be judged on the merits of what you do."

The steady southerly breeze coming in over the ocean south of KeySpan Park was a fitting setting for Sunday’s tribute. However, it wasn’t nearly as strong as the wind of change when Robinson became the first African American to break professional baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

When Robinson debuted, and for a few years thereafter, he endured death threats, constant slurs from fans in the stands and opponents on the field. Nevertheless, he made baseball fans sit up and take notice with his positive attitude, not to mention his dazzling talents at bat, on the field and on the bases. That year he earned the National League Rookie of the Year honor. In 1949, Robinson won the Most Valuable Player award when he led the league with a .342 batting average and 37 stolen bases.

Robinson is one of baseball’s immortals and though his efforts to appreciably desegregate the nation’s favorite pastime took nearly another decade, yet it remains significant because it opened doors for thousands of others over the years. But, even more noteworthy was his impact and determination off the field to help break down America’s racial barriers.

Baseball’s reigning all-time home run leader Hank Aaron once said Robinson did "shape the dreams of an entire generation."

When he retired from baseball a year before the Dodgers relocated to southern California, Robinson became active in the nation’s mushrooming civil rights movement. He was a member of the NAACP and encouraged opportunities for blacks in all fields, including the front offices of major league baseball

Today homegrown players of color and scores from nations across the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, dominate major league baseball. But that would have been unheard of 55 years ago if not for the courage of Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey, and one proud, talented young man – Jackie Robinson.


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