Robinson Honored By Cyclones
Rachel Robinson, the wife of the legendary ballplayer Jackie Robinson entered the Brooklyn Baseball gallery at Keyspan Park before last Sunday’s game between the Staten Island Yankees and the Cyclones. The Cyclones would be honoring her husband’s great feats in breaking the color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947.
One of the exhibits in the gallery featured a display of photographs and jerseys devoted to the importance of not only of Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers, but to baseball and America. Sharon Robinson, Rachel’s daughter then arrived next to her mother and both smiled at how their lives and many in America was impacted by Jackie.
The Cyclones did not forget as they honored the life of Jackie Robinson with a ceremony in which the Cyclones retired his #42. The day also included dignitaries such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joan Hodges, the wife of the late former Dodgers great Gil Hodges, who played with Jackie Robinson on those championship Dodgers team in the 1950’s.
The Cyclones retirement of the #42 jersey is the second to be retired along with Hodges’ #14. Major League Baseball retired the #42 jersey throughout baseball in 1997. Rachel was happy when she got the call from the Cyclones about the ceremony but was hesitant at the Cyclones wanting to retire the number. "I kind of wanted to see players out there wearing his number on them but now it has been put out of play, I find that number means something more to people than if someone else was wearing it".
After Jackie Robinson retired in 1956, he was in the forefront of the growing Civil Rights movement until he died in 1972. Before Jackie died, Rachel said that he believed that blacks should be involved in politics and in economic development. In 1973, Rachel and the rest of the Robinson family wanted to continue the struggle to help blacks and other minority children by starting the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The struggle to become successful was highlighted by the fact that they had no money and only one telephone to work with.
"We (the foundation) was really acting on faith then because we had no money but we had the determination to do something", she said.
Thirty years later, the program is a success with an endowment fund of $11 million dollars, 275 students, an 92% graduation rate in colleges and universities across the country and providing leadership training and job opportunities.
Rachel intently follows today’s baseball and she is discouraged by the recently published report of only 10% of African Americans involved in the game of baseball today. She hopes that MLB’s Inner City RBI program will get black children interested in the game of baseball. "It makes me feel very sad and it’s a destructive trend that I hope would be taken care of."