There aren't a lot of things that every baseball fan can agree on. We all have our favorite teams, players, and moments in the history of the game. But today should be a day when all baseball fans celebrate together, regardless of what happens on the field. That’s because today marks the 62nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In doing so, he broke the color barrier in baseball and changed the history of the sport.
For those of us who were not around in 1947, it's impossible to imagine what it was like for Jackie Robinson -- a slick-fielding, base-stealing second baseman -- when he took the field that April day. We can't imagine what it was like to suit up and play the game of baseball knowing that so many people felt it was wrong. But it's pretty easy to see that Robinson's decision to play baseball, no matter what insults and objects people threw at him, was one of the most important things anyone has done for the sport.
Without Jackie Robinson, we would never have had Hank Aaron, who himself endured a great deal of racism as he broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. And, however you feel about his successor, we would never have had Barry Bonds, who broke Hammerin' Hank's record just two seasons ago. Without Jackie Robinson, we would never have had Willie Mays and his over-the-shoulder basket catch. We would never have had Rickey Henderson and his 1,406 steals, Reggie Jackson and his three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, or Dave Winfield and his 3,110 career hits.
And that's just the beginning. Had Jackie Robinson not opened baseball's doors to African-American players, it might have been impossible for players from other countries to enter, as well. That means no Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico), no Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic), and no Ichiro (Japan), just to name a few.
Looking at the current rosters of major league teams, it's hard to believe that there was a time when baseball's doors were closed to so many talented athletes. But, thanks to Jackie Robinson, it not only became America's true past time, but it has also become one of the world's past times. In honor of Robinson, every MLB player who takes the field today will do so in a jersey bearing his number: 42. That's a sight that all baseball fans should appreciate, no matter what their teams' box scores say after nine innings.