CLEVELAND -- The schedule didn't line up to C.C. Sabathia's liking, so he didn't get to don Jackie Robinson's No. 42 on the field on Tuesday as he did last year on April 15. But that did nothing to cheapen the significance of the date. Sabathia recognizes the anniversary of Robinson's first game with the Dodgers in 1947 as an important milestone for him and every other African-American ballplayer. "To me, he means everything," said Sabathia, who wore No. 42 on the bench. "I wouldn't get a chance to play for this game if it wasn't for him. He means so much to so many people, but he means everything to me."
To honor Robinson's meaning before Tuesday's game against the Red Sox at Progressive Field, the Indians played a video on the giant scoreboard in left field that celebrated the career of the man who broke baseball's color barrier. Pregame ceremonies also included a ceremonial first pitch from Julia Smith, who is one of 259 current Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship recipients. Smith, a Columbus, Ohio, native and senior at Ohio Wesleyan University, is an aspiring media attorney who will be teaching in the Columbus public school system in the fall. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The foundation, started 35 years ago by Robinson's widow, Rachel, provides four-year college scholarships, mentoring, leadership training and career development programming to minority students with records of community service who would not otherwise be able to attend college. JRF scholars have maintained a graduation rate of 97 percent, more than twice the national average for minority students.
Once Tuesday's game began, Robinson's influence was felt on the field, as the Indians' Grady Sizemore and the Red Sox's Coco Crisp, David Ortiz and third-base coach DeMarlo Hale all wore No. 42.
Crisp, formerly of the Indians, felt it important to point out the legacy of Larry Doby, as well. Doby broke the American League color barrier when he made his debut with the Indians in 1947, 11 weeks after Robinson's first game.
"You can't forget about him," Crisp said. "Both of those guys, we get to celebrate by wearing Jackie Robinson's number. To be able to make that transition so smooth for us and to give everybody an opportunity to play this game a lot sooner than it probably would have happened was big."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.