ARLINGTON -- You couldn't tell the players apart with a scorecard on Tuesday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. That's because they were all wearing the same number. Both teams. The Rangers and the Angels both wore No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, doing their part to pay tribute to the late Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame infielder who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.
"You have to pay your respects to the past and what he started," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I feel like it should be done every year." Commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson's No. 42 in 1997 but has given permission for individual players to wear it only on Jackie Robinson Day. Rangers manager Ron Washington came up with the suggestion that the entire team wear No. 42 on the 61st anniversary of Robinson's first game with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field. "It's not just about African-Americans, it's baseball period," Washington said. "[General manager] Jon Daniels had to sign off on it, and he did, and the players talked about it and they thought it was a good idea."
"This is why I'm here," said pitcher Joaquin Benoit, who is from the Dominican Republic. "No. 42. He broke that barrier."The Angels decided last week to all wear the number after GM Tony Reagins spoke with Daniels and learned of the Rangers' plan to do the same thing. Reagins then broached it with manager Mike Scioscia and players union representative John Lackey. "Tony called me last week after he talked with the Texas GM and he proposed it for us then," Scioscia said. "I know he talked to John Lackey, and he and the players embraced it. I think it's a great idea." The Rangers also each signed a special Jackie Robinson-designed home plate. That, along with the bases and lineup cards used in Tuesday's game, will be auctioned off on MLB.com to benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation. A video tribute to Robinson was also played on the scoreboard before the game. "We all appreciate what this represents to the game," shortstop Michael Young said. "I'm not going to pretend to understand what he went through, but everybody understands the important contribution he made to the game and to our country." Rangers president Nolan Ryan had the honor of meeting Robinson when he was a young pitcher with the Mets in the 1960s. "I don't think it made an impression on me, as it does now, what he did," Ryan said. Jackie Robinson Day helps raise that awareness. So does the Foundation. Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by Rachel Robinson, his widow, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources. Additionally, the Breaking Barriers program utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem. The Rangers will also auction off some of the No. 42 jerseys worn in Tuesday's game to benefit their own charitable foundation. Others will be sold at the Grand Slam Gift Shop.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.