Whenever game of baseball has faced challenges, conflicts or crises stemming from the actions of its players, the same line has been used over and over again in response: “No one is bigger than the game of baseball.”
No one, perhaps with one exception: the man who wore 42.
42 was worn by Jackie Robinson, the first African American player to break the color barrier and play in the major leagues. When he stepped on the field on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he faced pressure and adversity as no one had experienced before. A talented ballplayer, Robinson endured racist taunts both by players on the field and viewers in the stands. Displaying courage, composure and grit, he persevered and opened the door for integration in the major leagues, and changed the game forever.
After a momentous career, Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. On the 50th anniversary of his major league debut, his number “42” was retired across baseball, and the first “Jackie Robinson Day” was held on April 15, 2007.
Today, when baseball games are played on April 15, every ballplayer wears the same number–42—in honor of Jackie’s incredible accomplishments. It’s a tradition that began on the first “Jackie Robinson Day” on April 15 in 2007, when star player Ken Griffey Jr. asked for permission to wear “42” on his jersey. Over 150 players joined him in tribute to their hero. It soon became an annual tradition and today all major leaguers, players, managers and coaches wear “42” on April 15, keeping the memory of Robinson’s accomplishments alive.
Jackie Robinson is an example of the powerful impact of a life well lived.. Not all of us will change the course of a major sport or the direction of a nation. But we all have the potential to positively impact the lives of those around us and leave a lasting legacy for our families and friends to remember.
Facing incredible odds against him, Jackie Robinson left that kind of legacy. So much so, that at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of that groundbreaking first game, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig said, “No single person is bigger than the game of baseball; no one except Jackie Robinson. He remains bigger than the game.”