Tigers, Tribe reflect on Jackie's legacy

Francona: Annual remembrance, celebration is MLB's 'most important day'

Tigers, Tribe reflect on Jackie's legacy

CLEVELAND -- When Indians center fielder Austin Jackson walked into the home clubhouse on Saturday, he saw his jersey hanging in his locker as usual. But instead of the back of the Indians' home white jersey reading "Jackson" with his No. 26 below, it only had the No. 42. It was a meaningful change for the veteran outfielder.

"This is a very important day and it's a very honorable day," said Jackson. "I think for everyone to put the jersey on and go out there and compete, it kind of puts everyone on the same level for one day. It allows everyone to take a step back, look at the big picture and realize that its not just all about baseball. We are all in this together, and it is a good time for us to reflect on the past and everything that has been done for us before we even started playing this game."

Jackson and every other player and on-field personnel across Major League Baseball on Saturday is wearing Jackie Robinson's universally-retired No. 42 on their uniforms to commemorate the Hall of Famer, who broke the MLB's color barrier and became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut and is the 14th annual Jackie Robinson Day. Almost 45 years after his death, Robinson's legacy still lives on across the world of sports.

Before the Indians' game against division-rival Tigers at Progressive Field, there was a pregame ceremony to commemorate Robinson. It began with a public address announcement that highlighted the importance of the day, followed by a video on the Indians' scoreboard about the six-time All-Star's impact on the game of baseball.

For Indians manager Terry Francona, Jackie Robinson Day is the best day of the season and one which honors one of the game's greats.

"In my opinion, this is the most important day we salute, or we honor, of any day of the year," said Francona.

After the video, PromoShop, Inc. -- represented by Dawn Rogers and Melissa Pecoraro -- was acknowledged as the recipient of the Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award, an honor given to a vendor that works with the Indians' organization to help promote the economic growth and well-being of diverse communities.

Shortly thereafter, the 18 grantees of the Larry Doby Youth Fund were recognized on the field. The fund was created by Francona and other members of the Indians to help organizations that offer educational support and resources to help quell youth violence in Northeast Ohio.

The pregame ceremony concluded with Jovani Matos, a Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year finalist, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Jackson.

"There's a reason to celebrate every year, because of what Jackie went through," Tigers outfielder Justin Upton said. "It's good for the fans to see the 42 on the field and for us to represent Jackie and remember his legacy."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.