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No. 42 available for one special day

No. 42 available for one special day

NEW YORK -- The Mets are hosting Tuesday night's 61st anniversary celebration of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier against the Nationals at Shea Stadium, which is beginning its final season.

And aptly, both teams have decided that each of the 25 players in uniform, plus all on-field personnel that evening, will wear Robinson's legendary No. 42, which was retired throughout professional baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of Robinson playing his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson's old club, now hailing from Los Angeles, will also all again honor the Hall of Famer who paved the way for African-Americans to star in the Major Leagues when he took the field at first base on April 15, 1947. The Astros, Cardinals, Pirates and Rays will also join them. Tampa Bay was the first squad to announce its intention to do it this season.

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"Last year, I was fortunate enough to wear No. 42," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, a native of Brooklyn, who was given the honor of wearing the hallowed digits when baseball celebrated the 60th anniversary of Robinson's big day. "But [general manager] Omar [Minaya] and I were talking the other day, and this year, we felt it would be tremendous if the entire team could wear the number and feel the same sense of pride that I felt last year."

Since Selig proclaimed last week that, for the second consecutive year, any big league player can wear Robinson's retired jersey in action on Tuesday, the acceptances have come in fast and furious. The big day is also being celebrated at the other 14 ballparks that are staging games.

"All players have the option; it's entirely up to them," Selig said. "Candidly, I hope they all do it."

Orlando Hudson did so last year, along with Diamondbacks teammates Chris Young and Eric Byrnes. All three say they will wear it again. And as the returns come in, it is clear that each of the 30 teams is taking a different approach. The Brewers, who were big on the unity thing last year, have designated one player this time around: first baseman Prince Fielder.

"It's pretty cool," said Fielder, whose name was picked out of a hat. "What [Robinson] did, what he had to go through, I couldn't have done it. You guys know my temper. I'm glad he was able to do it for me, so I didn't have to deal with that."

Many other teams have opened it up to two or three uniformed personnel, or more. Six Twins will don the No. 42, including Craig Monroe, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Livan Hernandez, Matt Guerrier and first-base coach Jerry White.

MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day
Players/coaches who will be wearing No. 42 on April 15
American League
National League
Adam Jones (BAL)Eric Byrnes (ARI)
Coco Crisp (BOS)Orlando Hudson (ARI)
DeMarlo Hale (BOS)Lee Tinsley (ARI)
David Ortiz (BOS)Justin Upton (ARI)
Harold Baines (CWS)Chris Young (ARI)
Jeff Cox (CWS)Mark Kotsay (ATL)
Jermaine Dye (CWS)Derrek Lee (CHI)
Ozzie Guillen (CWS)Gerald Perry (CHI)
Nick Swisher (CWS)Lester Strode (CHI)
Jim Thome (CWS)Daryle Ward (CHI)
C.C. Sabathia (CLE)Dusty Baker (CIN)
Grady Sizemore (CLE)Ken Griffey Jr. (CIN)
Curtis Granderson (DET)Matt Herges (COL)
Jacque Jones (DET)Willy Taveras (COL)
Lloyd McClendon (DET)Yorvit Torrealba (COL)
Gary Sheffield (DET)Bo Porter (FLA)
Marcus Thames (DET)Michael Bourn (HOU)
Dontrelle Willis (DET)Cecil Cooper (HOU)
Joey Gathright (KC)Entire team (LA)
Jose Guillen (KC)Prince Fielder (MIL)
Trey Hillman (KC)Entire team (NYM)
Luis Silverio (KC)Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
Entire team (LAA)Entire team (PIT)
Matt Guerrier (MIN)Entire team (STL)
Livan Hernandez (MIN)Tony Clark (SD)
Craig Monroe (MIN)Calix Crabbe (SD)
Denard Span (MIN)Scott Hairston (SD)
Jerry White (MIN)Ray Durham (SF)
Delmon Young (MIN)Entire team (WAS)
Robinson Cano (NYY)
Joe Girardi (NYY)
Derek Jeter (NYY)
Mariano Rivera (NYY)*
Entire team (OAK)
Miguel Batista (SEA)
Adrian Beltre (SEA)
Yuniesky Betancourt (SEA)
Mike Morse (SEA)
Entire team (TB)
Entire team (TEX)
Shannon Stewart (TOR)
Frank Thomas (TOR)
Vernon Wells (TOR)
* Rivera is the last player to regularly wear number 42 since Commissioner Bud Selig retired the number throughout Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.

From the Reds camp, right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. and manager Dusty Baker confirmed their allegiance. From the Indians, center fielder Grady Sizemore and left-hander C.C. Sabathia said they were both again proud to do it. Among the Mariners, outfielder Charlton Jimerson said wearing a baseball jersey with the No. 42 on his back would be a special thrill.

"It would be an honor, it really would," Jimerson said.

Center fielder Joey Gathright, right fielder Jose Guillen and first-year manager Trey Hillman will make up the Royals' contingent.

"For me, Jackie Robinson is the first black man I ever heard speak proper English and seem well-educated, so he did a lot for me," Gathright said. "He let me know there was a lot more out there in the world than just living in Mississippi in the woods.

"He brought baseball to me, was able to speak as a black man to me -- a lot of things. It was the way he was, and I respected him a lot."

From the Yankees, LaTroy Hawkins and Robinson Cano will wear it, while Mariano Rivera is the last of the players who don the No. 42 on a day-to-day basis. Rivera was grandfathered in with a few players when Selig retired the number 11 years ago.

"It's hard to imagine what he went through," Rivera said about Robinson. "He couldn't fight back, but he would take it back on the field and play hard. The field was his territory. He played his game and fought his battles so people like me could have a job in the big leagues."

Cano, who regularly wears No. 24 in honor of Robinson, will simply reverse the digits on Tuesday.

"If it wasn't for him, we couldn't be here," Cano said.

From the Padres, Tony Clark and Scott Hairston will wear it. From the Giants, second baseman Ray Durham will be the lone representative. From the Cubs, Daryle Ward and Derrek Lee are on board for the second consecutive season.

"Anything you can do to bring awareness to what [Robinson] did and pay your respects to what he did is definitely a good thing," Lee said.

From the Marlins, it will be Bo Porter, Florida's third-base/outfield coach. From the Orioles, it's 22-year-old center fielder Adam Jones. The Astros have asked center fielder Michael Bourn to represent them. On the Phillies, shortstop Jimmy Rollins was bestowed the honor. From the Braves, it's veteran center fielder Mark Kotsay.

"Obviously, it means a great deal to represent something that Major League Baseball has made into a tradition," Kotsay said. "You pay your respects to the fact that this man and many others went through those racially motivated trials and tribulations."

Robinson was simply issued No. 42 by then-equipment manager John Griffin upon his arrival in Brooklyn prior to the 1947 season. Robinson wasn't the first or the last player to wear the famous jersey for the Dodgers. In 1939, George Jeffcoat did so when he pitched in only one game. And long after Robinson retired in 1956, it was issued again to pitcher Ray Lamb. But Lamb was so uncomfortable wearing the number that, in 1969, he gave it up when the season ended. Lamb remained with the Dodgers for only one more season.

After that, it was never worn again by a Dodger and was retired by the club just before Robinson passed away in 1972, a decade after he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

The idea of "unretiring" Robinson's number last year was Griffey's brainchild. He personally petitioned the Commissioner for the opportunity, so it was a no-brainer that he'd be doing it again this time around.

"You know what number I'll be wearing," Griffey said.

Baker -- one of four African-American managers in baseball, including Randolph, Ron Washington of the Rangers and Cecil Cooper of the Astros -- was out of uniform last season, and he wasn't able to participate. But there's no doubt about this year.

"That'd be cool -- it's appropriate and necessary," said Baker, a native of Sacramento, Calif., where he makes his offseason home. "I have Jackie all over my house. I have a special Jackie Robinson wall in my memorabilia room."

Like last year, the Dodgers, in their 50th season since moving west from Brooklyn, along with the Pirates and Cardinals, have decided that they will be wearing No. 42. All three are among the National League's original eight teams, and they were obviously in existence during Robinson's 10-year career.

"If it wasn't for him, I might not be in this locker room," Pirates center fielder Nyjer Morgan said about Robinson. "He's the one who paved the way for African-Americans to get into baseball, and it's just an honor even to wear that number. It would be an honor to wear No. 42."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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