"Obviously, when you reflect on it, it takes a different meaning," Upton said. "But every year it's an honor to wear 42. In the relationships you build through the game, you know that you would never have the opportunity to do that without Jackie's sacrifices. It's a special day every year."
This year marks the 71st anniversary of Robinson signing his professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, which was the first step toward his eventual breaking of the color barrier on April 15, 1947. In honor of the legacy he leaves behind, Robinson's jersey No. 42 was retired throughout the sport, and on this day all 30 MLB teams celebrate his courage, athleticism and unstoppable spirit with a league-wide day of celebration.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the city's second African-American mayor, threw out the first pitch. Several Tigers greeted young athletes from MLB's local Urban Youth Academy affiliate, Miguel Cabrera and Upton the most popular among them.
Upton and Cabrera's star counterpart in Houston, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, echoed the Detroit sluggers' reverence for wearing the famed number.
"He paved the way for a lot of us to play the game, and it really means a lot to be able to wear No. 42 tonight," Correa said. "The reason we're here today is because of Jackie."
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.