Jackie Robinson’s legacy will be commemorated in a special way for this year’s annual Jackie Robinson Day. According to U.S. News and World Report, the Dodgers will be revealing a bronze statue of Robinson at Dodgers stadium on Saturday. The Robinson statue will be the first of several player statues to be erected at Dodgers stadium but Jackie’s daughter Sharon thinks it is the perfect way to link the Brooklyn Dodgers legacy to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Each of the statutes, and given their location, reflects the totality of the man. He would have wanted that very much,” Sharon Robinson said. “It really links the Brooklyn Dodgers with the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
The statue of Robinson is said to be 77 inches tall and features Jackie sliding into home base. Stealing bases was one of Jackie Robinson’s many baseball talents. In fact, Robinson stole home to help the Dodgers secure the win in the first game of the 1955 World Series. It was that World Series that would give Jackie and the Dodgers their first world championship.
Jackie Robinson was the first player of color to cross the lines of segregation in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947. While integrated teams had played together up until the late 1800s, the move by Robinson into MLB helped them transition from their “whites only” policy which had been practiced for more than 60 years. Recruited by the Dodgers manager at the time, Branch Rickey, Robinson endured taunting from opposing teams and tension from fellow Dodgers.
Robinson went on to spend 10 seasons with the Dodgers where he earned the 1947 Rookie of the Year award, a National League Most Valuable Player award in 1949, and a World Series title in 1955. Jackie’s prominence in social history also garnered him the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1984 from President Ronald Reagan. Jackie was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
In 2004, the MLB chose to honor Robinson’s memory by celebrating Jackie Robinson Day. Each season on April 15, all members of MLB wear uniforms sporting the number 42, Jackie’s jersey number, in honor of his legacy. According to USA Today, the timing of the statue’s debut couldn’t be more imperative.
Though Major League Baseball is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s inaugural game, the current rosters are said to be less integrated than they have been in decades. According to USA Today Sports, only 7.1 percent of the current MLB players are African American. That is the lowest level since 1958.
The drop in diversity in major league baseball is due to a variety of reasons, but there is no denying that socioeconomic barriers remain a significant factor. MLB took notice years ago and invested millions of dollars in youth programs, and The Jackie Robinson Foundation also recognized the need. Now, both organizations are starting to see the fruits of their labor ripen as top draft prospects become more diverse.
Sharon Robinson believes the statue of Jackie will also serve a purpose to the community, providing inspiration to others who may want to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s not about looking back so much as it is feeling inspired,” Sharon Robinson said. “There’s still lots and lots of struggles in this world and it’s a very complicated place. Jackie Robinson showed us you can stand up, be strong and be respected, and play great ball under tremendous pressure.”
Tomorrow’s statue will be revealed in the left field reserve plaza. The Dodgers state that this is where the majority of their spectators enter the field which will give their bronze tribute to Jackie Robinson maximum exposure. Weighing in at over 700 pounds, the statue will be secured with a steel rod and is said to have three quotes chosen by Robinson’s family.
Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow and wife of 26 years, is said to be making the trek for the statue’s reveal. Rachel, who is 94 years old, has remained active in promoting Jackie’s legacy along with their children Sharon, David, and Jackie Jr.
[Featured Image by John Rooney/AP Images]