All major league players, coaches and umpires will wear No. 42 on Thursday to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. In an effort to continue the tradition he started last year, commissioner Bud Selig invited all on-field personnel to wear the first African-American baseball player's number to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day.
"Jackie Robinson's incredible legacy continues to impact our society today," Selig said in a statement. "Baseball's proudest moment was when Jackie took the field in 1947, so it is important to always remember him and his achievements. It is a privilege to pay tribute to the effect he had on baseball and our country by continuing to honor his Number 42."
The number was retired throughout the entire league in 1997. Since 2004, Robinson's legacy and impact on baseball has been honored on April 15, in memory of when he played his first game as the Brooklyn Dodgers' first baseman at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947.
"When Jack stepped onto Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, he set a new course for American history both in the game and in society," said Rachel Robinson, the late ballplayer's wife and founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "I am grateful that Major League Baseball continues to honor his enduring impact, along with the values he lived by, both on and off the baseball field."
In addition to teams joining together to don the revered number, the Robinson family will attend a special on-field ceremony at Yankee Stadium before the Yanks take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Rachel Robinson and daughter Sharon Robinson, who is vice chair for the foundation, will be present for the celebration. Jesse Simms, Robinson's grandson, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Each ballpark will have its own pregame ceremony, and teams on the road will commemorate Robinson's legacy at their next home game. The clubs will use ceremonial home plates and lineup cards that will include the Jackie Robinson Day logo.
Every club will sign one No. 42 jersey to be auctioned on MLB.com to benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was established in 1973. The foundation provides college scholarships, graduate school grants and mentoring to minority students with strong academics and leadership capacity. MLB sponsors more than 60 Jackie Robinson Scholars.
Major League Baseball also will air a 30-second television ad called "42: Beyond a Number" to remind viewers of Robinson's significance with a montage of imagery, including him and today's players and on-field personnel all wearing No. 42.
"Being African-American, he was one of the first players I learned about," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter told MLB.com. "Obviously, I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for his legacy, but more importantly for me, it's the relationship that I've built up with his daughter and wife throughout the years. Getting to know them and how special they are just goes to show how special he had to be."