CHICAGO -- Josh Barfield was in the second grade when he first read a book about the life of Jackie Robinson. And even at that young age, Barfield knew that story was something special. "It even hits you as a kid everything he had to go through to play the game he loved," Barfield said Thursday morning. "We take it for granted."
During the Indians' Sunday, April 15, game against the White Sox, Barfield will be doing his part to honor the man who broke baseball's color barrier. Barfield will join players around the league in wearing Robinson's No. 42 that day. "It's a great tribute to a great man," Barfield said of the jersey idea, which was initiated by the Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. "It's cool to see everyone around the league wearing it. I'll be honored to wear it." The Indians are petitioning Major League Baseball for the right to pay a similar tribute to Larry Doby, who became the first black player in the American League when he suited up for Cleveland on July 5, 1947. According to Indians director of media services Bart Swain, the Tribe is requesting that it be allowed to have one or all its players wear Doby's No. 14, which was retired by the club in 1994, on the anniversary of that event. The Dodgers will all be wearing No. 42, which was retired throughout baseball in 1997, the day of Robinson's anniversary. When contacted by the league office about the availability of No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, the Indians first asked ace C.C. Sabathia, who has been outspoken on the need for more African-American players in today's game, if he'd be interested in wearing it. Sabathia, however, is not scheduled to pitch that day, so he deferred to Barfield. "I would do it if I was pitching that day," Sabathia said. "But it's important for people to see it." The league will, however, allow both players to wear the No. 42 jersey on that day. Barfield's education on Robinson didn't come strictly from books. His great uncle, Albert Overton, was a pitcher and first baseman in the Negro American League for the Indianapolis Clowns, and he played against Robinson. "He would tell stories about him all the time," Barfield said. What Barfield learned from the stories and the books is that Robinson's is a life worth celebrating, in any way possible. "[Today's black players] know about him, but not as much as they should," Barfield said. "They know he was the first black player, but they don't know all that he went through to get to where we are today. People sent him death threats, spit in his face and he had to stay in separate hotels. He did so many things that have gone forgotten." But when he dons No. 42, Barfield will do his part to ensure Robinson is remembered. Here's the question: According to Elias Sports Bureau, Grady Sizemore is the first Indians player to homer in the team's first three games of a season. Nine others have homered in each of the season's first two games, and only three of those did so in the last 50 years. Can you name at least one of those three players? Southpaw satisfaction: Sizemore doesn't have many flaws in his game, but his performance against left-handed pitching was certainly one of them. He hit just .214 off lefties last year. This spring, Sizemore made improvement against left-handers a focus of his work in the cage. And if the past two games are any indication, that work is paying off. On Wednesday, Sizemore singled off reliever Andrew Sisco in the sixth and homered off Matt Thornton in the seventh. On Thursday, with left-hander Mark Buehrle on the mound, Sizemore led off the game with his third homer in three games. "He's a guy who, if he has something to attack, he'll attack it," manager Eric Wedge said of Sizemore. "We've seen some of the returns of that already." Pick your poison: Bringing in left-handed relievers to face Sizemore wasn't the only move White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made that blew up in his face Wednesday. He twice had Travis Hafner intentionally walked to bring up Victor Martinez. When he did so the first time, in the fourth inning, Martinez responded with an RBI single that gave the Tribe a 5-3 lead. Martinez has looked pretty walk-worthy his own self in the season's first two games. He's notched six hits in eight at-bats with five RBIs. "It's important for him to remain patient himself and not try to do too much," Wedge said. "In the early going, he's done that." Tribe tidbits: With the left-hander Buehrle on the mound for the Sox, Wedge went with his predominantly right-handed lineup for Thursday's getaway game. Jason Michaels started in left field and the No. 2 spot, while Ryan Garko made his '07 debut, starting at first and batting sixth. ... Wedge was careful with his words about home-plate umpire Larry Vanover's strike zone during Wednesday's game. It was not exactly pitcher-friendly in the early innings. "When you have two sinkerball pitchers [Jake Westbrook and Jon Garland, who both struggled] who are not able to get calls in the bottom of the strike zone," Wedge said, "it has an ill-effect." ... The first-pitch temperature for Thursday's game was 35 degrees with 25-mph winds. It was cold, but still a slight improvement over the 31-degree temperature Wednesday. "This is like Key West compared to yesterday," Wedge said. ... Three of the Indians' four full-season Minor League affiliates opened their seasons Thursday. Top prospect Adam Miller was slated to start for Triple-A Buffalo, but that game was postponed. And the answer is: Russell Branyan (2001), Kevin Mitchell (1997) and Albert Belle (1995) all hit homers in the first two games of a season. On deck: The Indians reach the long, winding road home Friday. They're scheduled to play their home opener at 4:05 p.m. ET against the Mariners, though the forecast is calling for snow showers. Right-hander Paul Byrd will get the starting nod opposite left-hander Horacio Ramirez. All fans braving the cold will receive a magnet schedule for their efforts.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.