CLEVELAND -- Every season, Jackie Robinson's legacy is celebrated on the anniversary of his breaking baseball's color barrier. On Friday, Indians and Mets players joined all of Major League Baseball in donning Robinson's No. 42 for their game at Progressive Field.
A handful of Cleveland players wore special black-and-white cleats bearing Robinson's image, and many took to social media to pay tribute to the Hall of Famer. Before their game against New York, the Indians also played a video that celebrated both Robinson and Tribe great Larry Doby for their roles in helping integrate baseball in 1947.
Robinson became the first African-American ballplayer when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. A few months later, Doby joined Cleveland on July 5, becoming the first black player in the American League.
"I think it's so important to recognize and pay tribute to him, what he went through," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Robinson. "I think it goes beyond baseball. At times, I hope that we're celebrating the right things. The fact of what he had to endure is hard to imagine. And when you think about that, how embarrassing it is that somebody's treated differently because of the color of their skin. Nobody's ever going to be able to explain that one to me where I understand it.
"Even his wife, Rachel, can you imagine how strong a woman she must be to have been there all that time? And it made me think about Larry Doby. I hope the league will allow us to wear his '14' some time. What was he, two months behind Jackie? I'm sure the taunts and the life was not [much different], because he was two months behind. What he had to endure was incredible also. I just hope we're recognizing the right things."
The Indians have a statue honoring Doby outside the center-field entrance of Progressive Field. Cleveland's players all wore No. 14 during a game on Aug. 10, 2007, honoring the 60th-anniversary season of Doby breaking the AL's color barrier.
Cleveland's players were happy to take the field with No. 42 on their backs on Friday.
"I admire what he was able to achieve under pressures, stresses," outfielder Rajai Davis said on Thursday. "So it's something that obviously baseball wants to last, and they don't want us to forget. It's good. It was good for baseball what he was able to do and how he was able to, against all odds, not just be a dynamic player but to do it under the conditions and circumstances. I suppose most of us don't even know the half of what he had to go through."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.