manager puts on his baseball jersey today, it will be with more pride than
usual, and that's saying something for the kid from Brooklyn who grew up a Mets
fan but first gained fame in his home city playing and coaching for the
"Just to wear the No. 42 on my back, I will feel his vibes," Randolph said
of Jackie Robinson while standing along the first-base line Wednesday night at
Shea Stadium. "There's going to be strong emotions for me that, hopefully, I'll
keep for life."
Randolph will be one of more than 200 players, coaches and managers
representing all 30 teams who will take part in today's commemoration of the
60th anniversary of Robinson's becoming the first black player in modern
The widespread wearing of No. 42 began with a simple phone call from Ken
Griffey Jr. to Bud Selig this month. The Cincinnati outfielder asked the
commissioner if he could wear Robinson's retired number on April 15. Soon after
Selig said yes, Griffey's leadoff gesture sparked an explosive chain reaction.
Nowhere was the sentiment to honor Robinson stronger than in the manager's
officer at Shea Stadium, where Randolph proudly displays pictures of the former
Brooklyn Dodgers star.
"Griffey brought up the idea and Major League Baseball ran with it. Any
time you're associated in any shape or form with the great Jackie Robinson,
it's the ultimate honor," Randolph said. "It's a great honor to him and it's a
great honor for me to wear his uniform. It's hard to describe in words what you
feel about Jackie. I know his wife, Rachel, real well. He's been an
inspiration to me since I was a little boy."
Randolph, 52, never saw Robinson play but said he formed a strong
attachment to him at a young age and drew inspiration from his story. "He was
someone that I immediately identified with. He was someone who was a role model
and someone I looked up to. He was someone who was very special who I could
aspire to be like," Randolph said. "Being from Brooklyn, I knew a little about
him, read some books about him. When I learned a lot about the man himself, you
just love what kind of human being he was. Not just on the field but off the
Wednesday was a chilly evening, but Randolph quickly warmed to his subject.
"For me, the initial attraction and respect was, 'Wow! Look at this man play.
Look at him run around the bases. Look what he's done. Look what he went
through.' And he was like me," Randolph said. "I was a middle infielder. I used
to emulate all the great players when I was a youngster and Jackie was my
Not all of today's major-leaguers have quite the same kinship with Robinson
that Randolph does, but many have been quick to volunteer to wear No. 42.
Entering the weekend, six teams (the Dodgers, of course, plus the Astros,
Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies and Pirates) planned to have all of their players
wear Robinson's number today. At least one player, coach or manager on every
other team will, too.
The Yankees' tribute includes Mariano Rivera, the only player who still
wears No. 42 every day. "I wear it with honor. I wear it with pride," Rivera
said. The peerless reliever was one of several players who was wearing No. 42
in 1997, when, during a moving 50th anniversary tribute to Robinson's breaking
baseball's color line, Selig proclaimed the number retired "in perpetuity."
Turns out that "in perpetuity" lasted only 10 years as Selig officially
"unretired" the number for today. Also wearing 42 for the Yankees in Oakland
wasn't for him," said Cano, who is named for Robinson, his father Jose's
Sabathia, expressed concern that the growing number of players wearing No. 42
today "watered down" the tribute, Selig insisted otherwise. "I think it's
great," the commissioner said. "Just their understanding of history and what
that man did for so many people is so important. Believe me, it makes me very
happy. I think the players should wear it who want to wear it."
Randolph became a little proprietary about No. 42, naming himself as the
only Met to wear the number, even though Damion Easley and recently demoted
Lastings Milledge had expressed interest in doing so. "I'll be proud to wear
it. I never in my wildest dreams expected to be part of something like this,"
Randolph said. "It's going to be a special day for me. The attention Jackie is
getting and the respect that he's getting is great. People of all colors should
know who he is. Young players today coming up should know about him, that he
was very special, that he was a great man."
JACKIE ROBINSON DAY
April 15, 2007: The 60th anniversary of his major-league debut