"I'm honored to wear it, to use it," said Yankees closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, a Panamanian who's the last player who is able to wear the famous number every day. "It's wonderful. As a minority, being the last one to use No. 42 is tremendous. I'm really, really proud and thankful to wear No. 42."
It was apropos that in the game, Robinson Cano hit two homers and had three RBIs, Derek Jeter hit another homer and added a double and Curtis Granderson had two triples. Rivera finished up the game, recording his fourth save in as many 2010 chances. All have honored Robinson in their own way.
Robinson's number was retired by decree of the Commissioner throughout baseball on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rivera, who was activated in 1995, was grandfathered in when Selig retired the number two years later.
On the field for the festivities at Yankee Stadium was Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow; Sharon, his daughter; Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer; and two Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars, Hector Velez and Melissa Jackson. Len Coleman, the former National League president and current Foundation chairman, was also in attendance.
"It was a special night," Jeter said. "It's always special when it's Jackie Robinson Day. I'm just glad his family got a chance to be here."
Yankees players Cano and Marcus Thames each strode to home plate and presented Rachel and Sharon with bouquets of white roses. Cano was named after Robinson and regularly wears No. 24 in his honor.
"The big thing about this day is that Jackie not only opened up doors for African-Americans to play, but minorities in general," said Granderson, the new Yankees center fielder. "When he came over from the Negro Leagues, it opened doors and paved the way for a lot of great things to start in the United States. Look at how far we've come, and still, also, how far we have to go. It's an amazing day to get a chance to be a part of it and wear 42 in his honor."
Jesse Simms, Jackie's grandson and Sharon's son, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Yankees manager Joe Girardi took a picture with the two Robinson women.
Sharon, an author of children's books and the vice chairperson of the Foundation board, said it was stunning to see everyone on the field now wearing her late father's number.
"When you're on the field and you see them in No. 42, it's so emotional," she said. "What we remember most is in 1997, for the 50th anniversary, some players didn't even know who Jackie was. To see where we are years later is really beautiful."
Two years ago, MLB made a major $1.2 million commitment to the Robinson Foundation over a four-year period to fund scholarships in the name of each of the 30 clubs. Each year, $300,000 is invested, representing 30 scholarships worth $10,000.
Jeter, the Yankees captain and all-time hits leader, donates a scholarship in perpetuity at the $250,000 level. He remains the only Major League player that endows a Robinson scholarship.
DuPuy said that MLB's contribution has no time limit and will go beyond the current term of agreement.
"We intend to continue to support the Robinson Foundation," DuPuy said. "Rachel, Sharon, [Foundation president] Della Britton, Len Coleman and the entire family and Foundation continue to do such a great job. They deserve the full support of baseball."
Here's what happened elsewhere in baseball:
It was a special day for Hall of Famer Billy Williams even though the Cubs lost to the Brewers, 8-6, at Wrigley Field. "When I look around and see the variety of players in the Major Leagues, all of it reverts back to No. 42, Jackie Robinson, who walked on Ebbets Field in 1947," Williams said. "He made it possible that if you're good enough, it doesn't matter what color, origin, where you're from. If you're good enough, you could play in the Major Leagues." Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode, outfielder Marlon Byrd and first baseman Derrek Lee took part in pregame festivities honoring Robinson.
Cleveland: Prior to their 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Progressive Field, the Indians played a video on the left-field scoreboard that honored Robinson's life and career. The Tribe also invited four local minority business owners -- Renee Deluca Dolan of CDG, Barb Hoover of Fine Line Communications, Jim Groh of Brilliant Sign and David Walter of Industrial Video -- on the field for a pregame ceremony. "This is his day," Indians pitcher Tony Sipp said. "We're paying homage to what he did and the sacrifices he made. It definitely feel inspired to make the best of my opportunity because of him."
At Coors Field, where the Mets defeated the Rockies, 5-0, former Rockies manager and current hitting coach Don Baylor couldn't help but recognize the significance of the day. "I always try to put myself in his position," Baylor said about Robinson. "I had to integrate an all-white school when I was in the seventh grade. Man, that was tough. So I can imagine trying to play professional baseball at the level that he played at. He's pretty special to me, what he accomplished and what he had to go through."
Los Angeles: The Dodgers always ask to be home on Jackie Robinson Day, and this was no different as they played the D-backs at Dodger Stadium. Their pre-game ceremony included a first pitch from Don Newcombe to Matt Kemp. Newcombe, a pitcher for the Dodgers for eight seasons, made his debut in 1949, two years after Robinson. Along with Newcombe, former Dodgers Tommy Davis, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Frank Robinson were introduced, as well as Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "Babe Ruth changed baseball; Jackie Robinson changed baseball, and to me it's something we should never forget," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn. "I'm happy Major League Baseball is certainly never going to let it go away."
Prior to the his club's 10-2 win over the Reds at Sun Life Stadium, Marlins center fielder Cameron Maybin presented a $4,200 check the team contributed to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The special day was not lost on Maybin, who wears No. 24 as a reverse of Robinson's historic No. 42 and read a great deal about him while growing up. "It's definitely an honor for me, I'm sure as well as some of these other guys, to be able to go out and wear that number for a day," said Maybin, who went 3-for-4 and hit his first homer of the season. "I think this day is great, and I'm just pleased to be able to be here and be a part of it."
Minneapolis: The Twins honored Robinson's legacy during a pregame ceremony before their 8-0 shutout of Boston, during which they introduced three Jackie Robinson Scholarship recipients -- Dena Baker, Andrea Glover, and Lena Her Many Horses. A video about Robinson's career was played before Span caught the first pitch from Jon Otto, CEO of Visions, Inc., who was named the recipient of the 4th annual Jackie Robinson award for the Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner. "The nine percent of African Americans that are in the game now, we're lucky to be able to put this uniform on. I cherish it," Twins outfielder Denard Span said.
The Orioles took the field against the A's at the Coliseum with only one African American player on the roster, which made the night even more special for Adam Jones. "I think Jackie Robinson Day is a celebration of Major League Baseball and it's a way to honor one of the game's greatest players. He wasn't just a guy who broke into baseball and broke through the color barrier. He was actually a pretty good player. It's good that baseball has shown that it really appreciates everything he brought to the game." As part of the celebration, nearly 500 Bay Area elementary and middle school students, as well as their parents and teachers, attended the game as guests of the A's for their participation in the Jackie Robinson "Breaking Barriers Essay Contest."
Philadelphia: At Citizens Bank Park where the Phillies dropped a 7-5 decision to the Nationals, a vintage Robinson bat from 1953 was passed around before the game in the Phillies dugout. "It kind of gave me the chills," said Phils outfielder Shane Victorino. Only in Philadelphia, though, was such a piece of baseball history on display. Hunt Auctions unveiled the Robinson bat -- from a 1953 matchup between the Dodgers and Giants -- and will display it at its retail store in the 126 section of Citizens Bank Park for the weekend. The bat will be auctioned off at the 2010 All-Star Game and is expected to sell for $30,000-$40,000.
St. Louis: The Cardinals recognized Jackie Robinson Day with a subdued ceremony at Busch Stadium on Thursday prior to their 5-1 loss to the Astros. The club played a tribute video on the board in right-center field to honor Robinson. "I have terrific admiration [for Robinson] and am incredulous that he could go through that," manager Tony La Russa said. "I saw today one of the papers was talking about the lack of the black athlete [in baseball]. And it's impossible to figure because it's such a great sport for anybody that's an athlete."
The Padres wore 1984 brown and mustard yellow throwback jerseys for their night game at PETCO Park against the Braves. Hours before the game, Jerry Hairston Jr. said that he couldn't wait to pull it on. "It carries a lot of weight for me and my family today," said Hairston, whose brother, Scott, is a teammate. Their grandfather, Sam Hairston, played in the Negro Leagues, eventually becoming the first African-American to play for the White Sox in 1951. "It's a great day. It goes to show how Major League Baseball views Jackie Robinson and the meaning of this day," Hairston Jr. said.