For many people, April 15 usually signifies the last day to file income-tax returns. For baseball fans, April 15 means something greater, something more important that changed baseball and history — Jackie Robinson Day.
Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier at Ebbets Field, becoming the first African-American to play in a game, suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers on opening day and starting at first base on April 15, 1947 against the Boston Braves.
It was a seminal moment in baseball’s storied history, ending more than 80 years of segregation in the league, and a significant moment in the civil-rights movement in this country.
In March 2004, then-commissioner Bud Selig announced that on April 15, baseball would celebrate Jackie Robinson Day to honor the importance of Robinson and the inspiration he provided. A year later, Selig made the celebration an annual event.
It was Ken Griffey Jr., while playing with the Mariners, who first wore Robinson’s No. 42 on April 15, doing so in 1997 on the 50th anniversary.
Ten years later, with Robinson’s No. 42 retired throughout baseball, Griffey asked Selig for permission to wear it again. Selig granted the request and allowed the same request for any player who wanted to follow Griffey’s lead. In 2009, Selig made it universal for all players and coaches to wear No. 42 on April 15.
With baseball shut down due to the novel coronavirus, the Mariners, who have 10 African-American players on the 40-man roster — the most in MLB — decided to still celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with a roundtable discussion led by play-by-play broadcaster Dave Sims.
Guests on the Zoom panel included current Mariners Shed Long Jr., Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith, MLB Network analyst and former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds and Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Museum.
Here’s the video: