Sunday will mark an important anniversary in American society. Sixty years ago, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play in Major League Baseball.
His uniform number, forty-two, was retired as an honor on the fiftieth anniversary. Since then, the only players who could wear that number were those already wearing it.
But a special honor is planned this Sunday for the sixtieth anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. At least one player from every major league team will wear the number forty-two. That includes every member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson was called up by the Dodgers on April fifteenth, nineteen forty-seven. At that time the team played in Brooklyn, New York.
Blacks and whites had played together for short periods in the late eighteen hundreds in different baseball organizations. But no black players had been admitted to the Major League Baseball that exists today.
Jackie Robinson faced abuse and loneliness. There were death threats. Pitchers threw at his head.
|Jackie Robinson slides into home plate during the 1948 season|
He worked hard not to let the discrimination interfere with his game. He was named Rookie of the Year. He went on to play in six World Series in his ten seasons with the Dodgers. Later he became the first African-American in the baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackie Robinson wanted to see African-Americans not just playing baseball but also managing teams. Over the years, the numbers of black managers increased. But the share of black players has decreased.
Jackie Robinson died in nineteen seventy-two. At that time about twenty percent of players were black. But the Institute for Diversity and Ethics at the University of Central Florida says the number last year was only about eight percent. Still, its research shows that the percentage of minorities overall has increased.
Last year almost thirty percent of players were Latino. About two percent were Asian. In all, more than forty percent of professional baseball players were nonwhite.
Almost one-third of all players last season were from other countries. Many players come from the Dominican Republic.
The all-time high for minorities in the major leagues was forty-two percent ten years ago.
The idea to honor Jackie Robinson by wearing his number began with Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Junior. He received permission from the Robinson family and major league commissioner Bud Selig to wear it for the day.
Major League Baseball has since invited players from all thirty teams to wear Jackie Robinson’s number on April fifteenth. But some feel they are not worthy of it. Others say too many people wearing the number takes away from the meaning.
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera says every player should wear it. He is the only active player who still has the right to wear the number forty-two to every game.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.