On Opening Day for the 2014 MLB season, there will not be a single player in professional baseball to wear the number 42 on a regular basis.
That’s incredible. For the past 16 years the number has been retired by all teams in the major leagues in honor of Jackie Robinson, who made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on this date 66 years ago.
Little did anyone know the impact and legacy of Robinson’s debut. He broke baseball’s color barrier and setting a benchmark for all of sports and the Civil Rights Movement. In honor of Jackie’s impact, MLB retired his number in April 1997, the 50th anniversary of his debut.
Many players still wearing Robinson’s iconic number were allowed to continue doing so under a grandfather clause, but most of them were out of baseball or changed their number soon after the retirement.
For the past 10 years, only one man has continued to wear Robinson’s iconic number: the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, who will be retiring at the end of this season to conclude his incredible career.
Clearly, Rivera has honored the legacy of Robinson through his excellence on and off the field, through his incredible performances year in and year out as well as his good charity work like the good Christian he is.
With the Dodgers and Giants leaving New York City for California 55 yeas ago, the New York Yankees are the only team left in the city left who played with and against Robinson in his time, which may have made them become the ambassadors of the number 42 and Robinson’s legacy.
Rivera being the last player to wear the number, the Bronx Bombers have another player that honors Jackie: Robinson Cano, whom Jackie is his namesake as well as influence: Like JR, Cano is an outstanding second baseman and wears the reverse of Jackie’s number, number 24, appropriate.
For the last three seasons, the Yankees had the honor of celebrating Jackie’s achievements with his wife Rachel and daughter Sharon present at Yankee Stadium to receive gifts from the organization, usually presented by Cano and Rivera.
If that doesn’t honor the name and number well enough, Cano is a career .360/.379/.640/1.019 hitter on Jackie Robinson Day with three HRs and six RBI.
Unfortunately, the Yankees are off today for this year’s celebration, so Mrs. Robinson and daughter Sharon will likely celebrate the day with Jackie’s franchise the Dodgers, and rightfully so.
But luckily, it seems that the Yankees will indeed still honor Jackie Robinson in tomorrow’s home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Baseball will never be the same without somebody wearing the number 42. Mariano has honored it well with his class and his continuing excellence. Undoubtedly the Yankees will retire the number in his name sometime in the next few years.
Meanwhile, Cano is in a contract year, so the Yankees need to pay him the money he wants. They need to do it not only for him to continue to carry the franchise but also to continue to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson, as No. 24 will continue to carry the torch that Mariano has carried for 16 years.