04/15/2004 1:23 PM ET
Ringing in Jackie Robinson Day
Sharon Robinson sounds the start of festivities
By Christie Cowles / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Jackie Robinson Day got off to a resounding start Thursday morning as Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, rang the ceremonial Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
|Sharon Robinson (second from left) surveys the scene from the NYSE balcony. (Christie Cowles/MLB.com)
The NYSE welcomed a group of MLB and Jackie Robinson Foundation officials to take part in the special ceremony honoring Jackie Robinson on the 57th anniversary of his historic debut as the Major Leagues' first African-American player.
"This is the most fun I've had since I threw out the first pitch in 1997 at the Seattle Kingdome; it was a wonderful experience," Robinson said. "I'm just so thankful that John Thain (CEO of the NYSE) invited us and that it's part of Jackie Robinson Day, because my father really was about economic development, so he must be very happy."
Thain escorted Sharon Robinson to the balcony overlooking the NYSE trading floor to ring the bell. Robinson was joined by several MLB officials on the balcony, including Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of business; Jacqueline Parkes, senior VP of advertising and marketing, and Tom Brasuell, VP of community affairs.
Members of the Jackie Robinson Foundation also joined Robinson on the balcony: Len Coleman, chairman of the JRF and former National League president; Della Britton Baeza, president and CEO; board member William Doescher, and Genel Ambrose, Jackie Robinson scholar.
Robinson, who is the educational programming consultant for MLB, said it was a great experience and she was looking forward to all the festivities of the day.
"My family is thrilled to be a part of Jackie Robinson Day; it is a wonderful tribute to my father's legacy and also a wonderful opportunity for us to continue to look at issues of equity and justice, in baseball as well as in America," she said.
The day marked the first official league-wide Jackie Robinson Day. Festivities will take place at all 13 ballparks where Major League games are scheduled to be played.
"I'm very happy my son is in Boston today, we're happy that the scholars and family are at different clubs and look forward to expanding the celebration as the years go on," Robinson said. "And also continuing to come up with creative ways to reach out to the African-American community and bring them into this wonderful game of baseball that we all love."
Coleman described the bell-ringing ceremony as the beginning of a great day for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, as well as for Major League Baseball.
"It was extremely significant. Jackie would have been 85 years old this year and we're very pleased by the fact that Major League Baseball is honoring him in perpetuity, not only honoring the man, but what he stood for," said Coleman. "From the foundation's point of view, what we're trying to do is turn out young citizens who will emulate Jackie -- his values and his contributions to society."
As a Jackie Robinson scholar, Ambrose, 20, will participate in some unique activities during the day.
"It's a wonderful experience; I'm enjoying myself," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience [to participate in the Opening Bell ceremony]. The scholarship has been very important for me, a lot of other scholarship programs you don't get events to go to, and I think it's very important to participate in those."
Ambrose currently is a sophomore studying journalism and sociology at New York University. She will throw out the first pitch tonight during Jackie Robinson Day pre-game festivities at the Mets-Braves game at Shea Stadium.
"I'm nervous, but I'm also excited about it," said Ambrose. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity, and I feel honored to be able to do that on Jackie Robinson Day. I can't believe it and I think I'm going to enjoy it."
Jackie Robinson Day
April 15, 2004
Ceremony at Shea Stadium:
56K | 350K
Commissioner Selig's comments: 56K | 350K
MLB.com's Billy Sample at Shea: 56K | 350K
Presentation at Jackie Robinson Field: 56K | 350K
MLB.com looks at his life and impact: 56K | 350K
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.