Cubs, Bucs pay homage to Jackie Robinson

Cubs, Bucs pay homage to Jackie Robinson

CHICAGO -- Jackie Robinson played 93 games at Wrigley Field, the only current Major League stadium he played a game in. That makes Saturday an even more special day for Jason Heyward.

Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, with each player wearing No. 42 to honor the man who broke the color barrier.

"I feel it takes you back and you feel like you're playing at that time for a day," Heyward said of wearing No. 42. "One of the fun things about this game is you get to pay homage to an historic moment like this. ... There's no better way to do this."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he and Don Zimmer, who was a teammate of Robinson's from 1954-56, would talk about Robinson as well.

"'Zim' always talked about how good of a player Jackie was, and how hard he played, and what a good teammate he was," Maddon said.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle felt Saturday's events were a "wonderful tribute to a man who made a difference in life."

"The challenges he went through, the connections that were made moving forward to open the game up for African-Americans and then it expanded globally. The moment that Pee Wee Reese put his arm around him in Cincinnati, and embraced him when he was going through another wave of verbal assaults -- it's what makes the day special; what makes the game special," Hurdle said. "Our ability and our desire to continue to honor him is the part I really embrace."

Heyward and Pirates Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison wore special cleats to honor Robinson as well. Heyward and Ben Zobrist planned to wear their pants high as Robinson did.

"To be able to turn the other cheek and go play, and find some sanity playing the game and be strong for himself and his family -- obviously he had a lot of impact on someone like myself and the game and things on and off the field for a lot of people," Heyward said. "But at that time, he didn't know exactly who it would affect. To be able to go through those things without knowing how much you're going to do for a lot of people says a lot about a person's character."

Heyward is aware there aren't as many African-Americans playing baseball now, but feels there just aren't the opportunities.

"Guys want to go to college, they want to be able to have sports pay for their education," Heyward said. "Everybody's family can't afford to take out a loan."

Football was never an option for Heyward, because his father felt the sport was too dangerous.

"Baseball was a sport he loved because of the Mets in the 1980s, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry," Heyward said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.