Above anything else, I hate to lose. – Jackie Robinson
Every year on April 15th Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, and all players throughout the league wear the number 42, the number Jackie Robinson made famous while becoming the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This year, the MLB and the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be doing something more to celebrate the day. The Dodgers will host the Seattle Mariners in the 2015 Civil Rights Game on Jackie Robinson Day. This is the first time that baseball’s tribute to civil rights will be held in conjunction with its annual commemoration of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947.
The Civil Rights Game was developed by MLB to pay tribute to the spirit of the civil rights movement and to honor those who embodied the struggle for equal rights for all Americans.
Jackie Robinson endured much hatred and harassment during his career: most notably by the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager, Ben Chapman. During one infamous game, Chapman and his team shouted derogatory terms at Robinson from their dugout. In addition, many players on opposing teams threatened not to play against the Dodgers. Even his own teammates threatened to sit out. But Dodgers manager Leo Durocher informed these players that he would sooner trade them than Robinson. His loyalty to the player set the tone for the rest of Robinson’s career with the team.
There were others who defended Jackie Robinson’s right to play in the major leagues. Some of them included League President Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg and Dodgers shortstop and team captain Pee Wee Reese. In one incident, while fans harassed Robinson from the stands, Reese walked over and put his arm around his teammate, a gesture that has become legendary in baseball history. Jackie Robinson was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, National League MVP in 1949 and a World Series champ in 1955.