ARLINGTON -- Everywhere you looked, you saw his number. The Orioles paid tribute to icon and trailblazer Jackie Robinson Wednesday by wearing No. 42, which has been retired throughout the Major Leagues. Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947, represents an ideal appreciated by fans of all races and creeds.
"I think it's a tremendous, tremendous thing that everyone in baseball is united and everyone's wearing that number that signifies a tribute to Jackie Robinson," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We talk about 'character counts,' and that it's important to be a Major League person and a Major League player. People who don't understand about the heritage of Jackie Robinson ought to do themselves some due diligence and read about him."
Robinson's achievement, which came seven years before a seminal Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, has had a lasting impact that goes well beyond the box scores. Baseball clubhouses are now open to players of all races and all nationalities, and society has followed the lead set by the sport.
Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day every year on the anniversary of his first big league game, and many of the men involved in the game appreciate the gesture and the sentiment it represents.
"I think it's very appropriate when you think of his accomplishments and what he did for the game," said John Shelby, Baltimore's first-base coach. "Nowadays, I see it as more of a unity thing amongst teammates when you look at how far things have come as far as African-Americans advancing. Now, the game is expanding globally and it's opened up opportunities not just for African-Americans but for the whole world to participate at the Major League level."
Trembley said he often thinks of Robinson in his hometown, which boasts a ballpark named in his honor.
"I was fortunate enough that I managed in the Florida State League for years at Jackie Robinson Ballpark," he said. "That is one of the great ballparks in all of Minor League Baseball and his history is duly noted there with a statue out in front of the stadium. It's kind of a centerpiece down on Main Street in Daytona Beach.
"Those of us that have followed the history of this game for a long time, we all owe a certain sense of gratitude to Jackie Robinson, the man, and then Jackie Robinson the player for what he's done for all of us in this game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.