Jackie Robinson Rotunda teaches fans history

Memorial serves as tribute to pioneer who broke baseball's color barrier

Jackie Robinson Rotunda teaches fans history

NEW YORK -- In helping to dedicate Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda back in 2009, Robinson's widow, Rachel, called it a "stunning space" that is "a superb tribute to Jack's enduring legacy."

"It is my hope that as people of all ages pass through the Rotunda," she said that day, "it will evoke their most cherished memories -- as well as serve as an inspiration to young people who we hope will share the values and ideals by which Jack lived."

The most noticeable architectural element of the Mets' stadium, enveloping those who spill off the 7 Train before games, the Rotunda features quotations from Robinson and an eight-foot sculpture of his No. 42. Since its inception, the Rotunda has served not only as a grand entranceway and meeting place for fans, but a museum in itself.

The entire space is a throwback to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, where Robinson made his Major League debut in 1947, breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier.

As baseball reflects this February for Black History Month, no act in the game's history stands taller.

The Jackie Robinson Rotunda envelopes fans who spill off the 7 Train and enter Citi Field. (AP)

"Millions of people should go through the Rotunda and think about that," Mets chairman Fred Wilpon said when the project was first announced. "Within the Rotunda, we are going to tell the story of Jackie Robinson -- not only as a great baseball player, but also as a great American."

Building the Rotunda was a voluntary act by Wilpon, who grew up a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn. But this was about so much more than simply adding permanence to Wilpon's boyhood idols. The Rotunda was a recognition that the Mets, a team whose bloodlines flow back to both the Dodgers and New York Giants, have a responsibility to recognize the highlights of their lineage.

No piece of that is more important than Robinson, the rarest of ballplayers whose contributions transcended the sport.

So at the Rotunda's 2009 dedication, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called it "a beautiful and fitting memorial to a man who forever changed the game of baseball, and life in America," while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defined it as "a wonderful reminder of [Robinson's] legacy, and a source of inspiration for all who pass through Citi Field's doors."

"As a youngster, I had the great privilege to know Jackie, Rachel and the Robinson family," Wilpon added that day. "The Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field serves to welcome, educate and inspire -- and is a powerful reminder of Jackie's profound impact on our country as an American hero."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.