Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 114
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.


          MLB's season-long tribute to the 50th anniversary of
     Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier culminated last
     night with a special celebration at Shea Stadium where
     Acting Commissioner Bud Selig said Robinson's uniform number
     42 will be retired throughout MLB.  The event was televised
     live on ESPN.  Selig: "Number 42 from this day forward will
     never again be issued by a Major League club.  Number 42
     belongs to Jackie Robinson for the ages."   MLB stopped play
     of the Dodgers-Mets game after the fifth inning for the
     ceremony.  Recording artist Tevin Campbell sang "The
     Impossible Dream" to a montage of highlights from Robinson's
     career.  Selig then accompanied Robinson's widow Rachel and
     President Clinton out to the field.
          NUMBER FOR THE AGES: Selig, first to address the crowd:
     "Throughout its long history, Major League Baseball has
     operated under the premise that no single person is bigger
     than the game -- no single person other than Jackie
     Robinson.  In his life and in the remarkable legacy he left
     for all Americans, Jackie Robinson was and remains bigger
     than the game. ... In honor of Jackie, Major League Baseball
     is taking the unprecedented step of retiring his uniform
     number, Number 42, in perpetuity."  Selig said that players,
     like the Mets' Butch Huskey and Mo Vaughn of the Red Sox,
     who wear Number 42 as a tribute to Robinson, "may continue
     to wear the number for the remainder of their careers," but
     the number will never be issued again.  Selig then directed
     the crowd to the left-field wall for an unveiling of
     Robinson's Number 42 alongside other retired Mets numbers.
          MORE CEREMONY: President Clinton followed Selig. 
     Clinton: "It is hard to believe that it was 50 years ago at
     Ebbetts Field that a 28-year-old rookie changed the face of
     baseball and the face of America forever. ... I can't help
     thinking that if Jackie Robinson were here with us tonight,
     he would say that we have done a lot of good in the last 50
     years, but we can do better.  We have achieved equality on
     the playing field, but we need to establish equality in the
     boardrooms of baseball and throughout corporate America." 
     Rachel Robinson concluded: "This anniversary has given us an
     opportunity as a nation to celebrate together the triumphs
     of the past and the social progress that has occurred.  It
     has also given us an opportunity to reassess the challenges
     of the present. ... I believe that the greatest tribute that
     we can pay to Jackie Robinson is to gain new support for a
     more equitable society, and in this heady environment of
     unity it is my hope that we can carry this living legacy
     beyond this glorious [time].  This is a great moment for all
     of us" (ESPN, 4/15). 
          MORE FROM THE TELECAST:  ESPN's Joe Morgan, on Huskey,
     Vaughn and other players wearing No. 42: "I would like to
     think that maybe now that that number is retired, that they
     would change numbers and put that number into retirement
     permanently, because they did it as a tribute."  Selig, who
     was interviewed in ESPN's booth after the ceremony, on
     Robinson breaking the color barrier: "It is the proudest
     moment in baseball history. ... [The idea to retire
     Robinson's No. 42] came easy.  This is the least we can do. 
     We need to do a lot more. ... We've come a long way in the
     last four or five years in terms of total hiring things. 
     But, look, there's no sense in attempting to fool anybody. 
     We need to do better in managers, in general managers, in
     executive positions."  ESPN's Chris Berman interviewed
     President Clinton before the ceremony (ESPN, 4/15).
          WHITE WASH? In N.Y., Wallace Matthews notes the largely
     white audience in attendance at last night's tribute.  One
     anonymous MLB official: "The league didn't do anything to
     market this event to the black community.  [MLB] should have
     run an ad in every black newspaper and on every black radio
     station in the country."  Selig: "Somehow we've lost our
     relationship with [the black] community.  We've got to get
     it back" (N.Y. POST, 4/16).  Interest in baseball among
     African-Americans was examined by ABC's Michele Norris on
     "World News Tonight."  Norris: "The irony is that 50 years
     [after Robinson], blacks are turning away from baseball. ...
     You can see it in the stands, where blacks purchase less
     than 5% of Major League tickets" (ABC, 4/15).