04/16/08 2:26 AM EST
Marlins celebrate Robinson legacy
Third-base coach Porter dons legend's No. 42
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
On Tuesday, Major League Baseball recognized the immortal Jackie Robinson, the man who broke down so many barriers in sports and society.
"When the date comes up every year, you do have to focus on what he accomplished, the type of person that he was, what he endured and that Branch Rickey picked the right person," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "It had to be the right guy, because there are a lot of people who couldn't endure what he had to endure."
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his widow, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities, but limited financial resources, as well as Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.
To celebrate the occasion, each of the 30 MLB teams had one or more players or coaches wearing No. 42.
The representative for the Marlins was third-base coach Bo Porter. Atlanta center fielder Mark Kotsay donned the number as well.
Before Tuesday's game, Porter caught the ceremonial first pitches.
"It's an absolute honor," Porter said. "It's a monumental thing in baseball, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. To me, he's an American hero. It's an honor for me to be chosen as the person to wear No. 42.
"My Little League coach was a baseball historian, and he talked about Jackie Robinson. You read all the stories of how much adversity he had to deal with, and then you look at the numbers, and all that he did, that tells you that this guy wasn't just a great baseball player, but he had to be a strong man to be able to go out and perform under those circumstances."
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was born in Cuba and raised in Miami, notes that Robinson opened doors to many races.
Gonzalez noted that he recently received an e-mail that included names of those who played Winter League baseball in Cuba in the 1940s. Some of the names were African-Americans who were denied opportunities to play in the Major Leagues before 1947.
African-Americans would play in the Negro League, along with some Latin Winter Leagues.
"That's where the African-Americans played in," Gonzalez said. "I didn't know that.
"I think he opened the door for everybody, all kinds of nationalities."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.