The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers showcase a double dose of Jackie Robinson festivities against one another this week, as the two clubs refresh their century-old rivalry in Los Angeles on Friday.
The Giants recognized Robinson’s life and career during Sunday’s 9-6 win over the Dodgers at AT&T Park, before a six-game road trip brings them to L.A. for Friday’s league-wide Robinson remembrance.
Major League Baseball designated April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day in 2004 to commemorate Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947.
Rookie Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told SFBay he’s honored to manage Robinson’s former club on the Hall of Famer’s special day:
“I remember as a player having the opportunity to wear No. 42 for Jackie Robinson Day. That was special. And to go back home to L.A. and celebrate Jackie Robinson Day is gonna be exciting for me.”
Roberts went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI as Dodgers left fielder in the inaugural Jackie Robinson Day in 2004, helping the Dodgers to a 7-5 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Now the organization’s first black manager, Roberts said he’s looking forward to donning Robinson’s retired number again as a Dodger:
“For me, to be in this chair, it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Jackie. He obviously paved the way for me and many others, so I definitely look at it as a responsibility to do right by him and those that paid the price for me and endured a lot of hatred and dislike.”
Former MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson’s No. 42 for all clubs in 1997. But every April 15, all players and coaches from all clubs don the iconic jersey number during games. Doing so was initially optional, but was made mandatory for players, coaches and umpires starting in 2009.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford plied his trade at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium for three years before turning pro. Crawford told SFBay he’d wear Robinson’s number even if he had the option not to:
“He opened the door for so many players to come in and make a difference on the game. Not even specifically African American players, but players of all backgrounds. … He obviously made a huge impact on the game.”
After the 1956 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants agreed to a trade that would have sent Robinson to the Dodgers’ then crosstown rivals in exchange for left-handed pitcher Dick Littlefield. Robinson had already (privately) decided to retire, however, and eventually penned this letter to the Giants owner Horace Stoneham informing him of as much.
Robinson’s career today eclipses rivalries, as most MLB clubs (the Giants included) literally have No. 42 hanging in their rafters. Young Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson noted the transcendence after his team’s 9-6 loss to the Giants Sunday:
“I think rivalries kind of go out the window with a guy like that. We all recognize what an amazing person he was, what an amazing player he was and how meaningful he was for the game. It is incredible.”
Thompson committed to Robinson’s alma mater UCLA out of high school, but instead signed with the Chicago White Sox after his second round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. Now a member of the club with which Robinson spent his entire 10-year MLB career, Thompson acknowledged Robinson’s importance both within and outside the game:
“An amazing man and an amazing American, and that doesn’t even go into the type of baseball player he was. I feel like sometimes people lose sight of how good he was as a baseball player because of how impactful he was off the field. Everything he did in his life was done with a purpose.”
The Giants and Dodgers have clashed three times on April 15 since it was deemed Jackie Robinson Day. The most recent affair was in 2014, when the Giants edged the Dodgers 3-2 at AT&T Park.