Jeter, Cano, Torre to sport No. 42
Trio to honor 60th anniversary of Robinson's big-league debut
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mariano Rivera may be the last active player to wear No. 42 on a daily basis, but he will have some company as the Yankees take the field Sunday at Oakland.
Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Joe Torre have jumped at an opportunity to honor Jackie Robinson and by wearing No. 42 for one day, the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947, debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"I think it brings attention to what Jackie stood for, not only for baseball, but for society as a whole," Jeter said.
Jeter recalled meeting Robinson's widow, Rachel, at the 1996 Baseball Writers Association of America Awards dinner, and being charmed by her presence.
A rookie and a World Series champion then, Jeter has strong memories of the stories told by Rachel Robinson that evening, and has also performed mutual charitable efforts with Robinson's daughter, Sharon.
"I've always had the utmost respect for her and her daughter," Jeter said. "I've gotten to know them over the years. It's a great family. If there's one player I could play with and talk to, it'd be Jackie Robinson."
Rivera, the 37-year-old Yankees closer, has faithfully worn No. 42 since he found it hanging in his locker during the 1995 season, scrapping the original No. 58 he had once been issued.
It was just a uniform then, but Rivera said that as time went on, he began to grasp the greater significance of the digits.
As Major League Baseball prepared to universally retire the number in 1997 -- grandfathering in those players who had been wearing it -- Rivera said he learned more about Robinson's journey as a barrier-breaking athlete, an inspirational tale that struck a chord with the Panamanian-born Rivera.
"The legacy that Jackie left for us," Rivera said. "Being a minority player and being the last player to wear No. 42, to me, it's an honor. I do carry it with honor; I'm blessed."
While Rivera said it would be "strange" to see the uniform number on three other Yankees uniforms, Rivera said he wouldn't mind seeing the tribute go one step further. He suggested that every player in the Major Leagues could don No. 42 on April 15.
"I think if they're doing a national day on Jackie Robinson, everybody should wear it -- the whole Major League Baseball," Rivera said. "That's a special day for a special player -- let's make it special."
Cano's father, Jose, pitched briefly in the Major Leagues and, in 1982, named his son after Robinson. That alone made it an easy decision for Cano to accept the opportunity to wear No. 42 for the Sunday game at Oakland -- though Cano acknowledges Robinson on a daily basis just by the virtue of his given name.
"The first colored guy to play in the big leagues -- great numbers, MVP, Rookie of the Year," Cano said. "He was such a good player."
His No. 24 is a reversed image of the digits Robinson wore for the Dodgers, a switch he made before this season.
"I think a lot of people are going to wear it to show support to him and his family," Cano said.
Torre was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but he grew up as an ardent follower of the crosstown New York Giants, which he said automatically made him dislike Robinson -- one of the top players on his favorite team's most bitter rival.
A chance meeting after Torre had started his playing career changed that opinion. Robinson was working for the Chock Full O' Nuts coffee company at the time and shook hands with Torre.
"He was remarkable," Torre recalled recently. "He was a great athlete -- he played first, played third, played second, and wore No. 42.
"When we were kids growing up and you'd play in these amateur baseball leagues, every trophy you'd ever get had a likeness of Jackie Robinson. They used his batting stance as the model. Jackie was very prominent."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.