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Nats celebrate belated Robinson Day

Nats celebrate belated Robinson Day

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies honored Jackie Robinson by wearing No. 42 on Saturday night at Nationals Park.

The two clubs were scheduled to honor the Hall of Famer/humanitarian on April 15, but the ceremony and game were postponed because of rain.

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Before the game Saturday, the Nationals also recognized the Jackie Robinson scholars. One scholar threw out the first pitch, and two alumni of the program delivered the lineup cards. The first 10,000 fans at Nationals Park also received No. 42 buttons to honor Robinson.

In March 2004, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig designated April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day throughout the Major Leagues.

On April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout baseball.

In 2007, in honor of the 60th anniversary of Robinson's first Major League game, the retirement was temporarily lifted to allow players to pay homage to him by wearing his number. On Saturday, all of the players, coaching staffs and managers wore No. 42.

Manager Manny Acta is one person who credits Robinson for his career as a manager.

"Everything I have -- and big players where I come from in Latin America -- we have it all because of Jackie Robinson. He is the one who did it for us," Acta said. "Without Jackie Robinson, Juan Marichal, Ozzie Virgil Sr., Rico Carty and Felipe Alou never would have had the chance to come over here.

"It was tough for Jackie to be an American. Imagine us not only being minority, but also foreigners. We owe everything to him."

Outfielder/infielder Willie Harris gets emotional when talking about Robinson. They were both born in Cairo, Ga., and Harris knows how much Robinson means to baseball and society.

"Around the league, I think we are doing a great job as a far as honoring Jackie Robinson," Harris said. "He laid the groundwork and the red carpet for us, and I'm very thankful and grateful what he has done for me."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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