Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated even in space this year.
While Rachel Robinson, the player’s 92-year-old widow, and Commissioner Rob Manfred honored Major League Baseball’s first black player in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night in conjunction with the annual Civil Rights Game, astronaut Terry Virts wore a Dodgers jersey with Robinson’s No. 42 along with a Brooklyn cap at the International Space Station orbiting the Earth.
Wednesday marked the 68th anniversary of Robinson breaking the major league color barrier. His former team. the Dodgers, announced they will erect a statue of him at their ballpark.
“I can remember reading a book about Jackie when I was in the first grade,” Virts said in a video posted on MLB.com. “Even at that young age, I was really impressed with what he did beyond baseball. Jackie, alongside his wife Rachel, opened up a world of opportunities that had been closed to so many Americans simply because of the color of their skin. What he did took courage, a lot of courage. He had to endure things that most of us could not imagine, and he had to do it while maintaining composure that most of us couldn’t begin to muster.”
Robinson’s No. 42 was retired throughout the major leagues in 1997, with players already using the number grandfathered in. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear it, in 2013. Then-Commissioner Bud Selig decided in 2005 that all teams would honor Robinson each April 15. Every major league player, manager and coach on the field wears No. 42 on the date.
“Jackie is the most historic figure who ever played the game, so it’s fitting that we honor his legacy by adding the Civil Rights Game on the same day as Jackie Robinson Day,” Manfred said.
Speaking at a news conference before the Dodgers hosted Seattle, Manfred and Rachel Robinson were flanked by Dodgers owner Magic Johnson and club President Stan Kasten, who announced that a statue of Robinson will be erected and placed on the stadium’s grounds sometime this year — although the location has