Jackie Robinson, the legendary second baseman who broke the color barrier in American sports by becoming the first African-American player to sign and play in a professional sports league, had his iconic number 42 retired across all sports by his collegiate alma mater, UCLA, this week, according to MLB.com. The honor celebrates the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s signing with the Bruins.
Robinson, who excelled in multiple sports in college, including football and track, is arguably the greatest natural athlete ever to play for the Bruins. The Los Angeles Times reports that the school also renamed their sports complex — which encapsulates 22 of the campus’ major sports facilities including Pauly Pavilion, Spaulding Field, Drake Stadium, the Morgan Center, and Jackie Robinson Stadium — the Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex during a ceremony held Friday, at which Robinson’s widow, Rachel, was on hand. The Los Angeles Times reported that the number would be painted onto the field of the Rose Bowl during the Bruin’s rival game against the USC Trojans during Saturday’s game, in which UCLA also wore the number on their helmets.
UCLA Athletics Director Dan Guerrero spoke to the deeply ingrained influence Robinson’s talent and character continues to have on the Bruins athletic program.
“Jackie Robinson established a standard of excellence to which people the world over should aspire. On the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s arrival at UCLA, we want to ensure that his is a legacy to be upheld and carried forward by Bruins for generations to come. While he wore several numbers at UCLA, Jackie Robinson made the number 42 as iconic as the man himself. For that very reason, no Bruin will be issued the number 42 — in any sport — ever again.”
Bruins women’s soccer player Ally Courtnall, who wears number 42, told the school’s newspaper, the Daily Bruin, what the honor means to her.
“When I think of his number, I think of greatness, strength, courage, and all of those kinds of qualities that Jackie Robinson encompassed and exemplified in his life. If I could only be somewhat close to that, it would be amazing. It is such an honor to have his number on my back. I just see him as such a great example. I look at that number before every game, and I hope to do my family and the number proud.”
Major League Baseball similarly retired Robinson’s number across all teams in 2007. Recently retired New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera was the last player to don 42.