|Dodgers celebrate 60th anniversary of Jackie's debut with victory|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 15 April 2007 20:36|
Scampering around the bases, knocking hits to all fields, and coming away with an easy victory.
The Dodgers did all they could to honor Jackie Robinson on the 60th anniversary of his major league debut - before and during the game.
Robinson broke major league baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the sport celebrated the anniversary throughout the country Sunday, when more than 200 players, managers and coaches wore No. 42 in his honor.
Included in that total was every member of the Dodgers.
``I think it was special for everybody to put No. 42 on,'' said Russell Martin, who had three hits, three runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. ``We had a blast out there today. There was a little added pressure wearing that number.''
The Dodgers stole five bases - their most in a game since Aug. 23, 1999 when they stole seven in a game at Milwaukee - in a 9-3 victory over San Diego on Sunday night.
``It seems like there were a lot of Jackies out there,'' Martin said, referring to Robinson's base-stealing ability.
The national celebration of Jackie Robinson Day was centered at Dodger Stadium, not far from where Robinson grew up in Pasadena. He would become the first athlete to earn letters in four sports at UCLA, and he served in the U.S. Army during World War II before making his debut with the Dodgers at age 27.
``The whole team wearing No. 42, it kind of goes sour if we don't win,'' winning pitcher Randy Wolf said. ``It was great. There were a lot of special people here. It's a special day and I think they did it right.''
Martin grew up in Montreal hearing about Robinson from his father, a 62-year-old African Canadian.
``Jackie Robinson is one of my dad's favorite baseball players, and I probably learned a lot about him just by hearing stories my dad told me about him. My dad's a good storyteller, so I just used to sit there while he told me stories about Jackie and how he played - how good a baseball player he was and how fast he was.
``He was the only black kid on that block, or on that corner, or whatever. So he got his fun by telling all the guys that he was Jackie Robinson's son, and all the kids believed him and thought it was pretty cool.''
Martin said he looked forward to calling his father to share his latest experience.
``I'm just going to tell him it was a special time,'' Martin said. ``(Robinson) was just an amazing person. It was unbelievable just how brave he was. We get heckled a bit from the stands, it's the end of the world.''
Wolf (2-1) allowed six hits and three runs in six innings with seven strikeouts, and Andre Ethier and Wilson Valdez added three hits each for the Dodgers, with Ethier driving in his first four runs of the season.
The Dodgers snapped Padres starter Chris Young's streak of 25 consecutive road starts without a loss, and San Diego's Jose Cruz Jr. hit his 200th career homer.
Before the game, commissioner Bud Selig called Robinson an American hero.
``I've often said that baseball's most powerful moment in its really terrific history was Jackie Robinson's coming into baseball,'' Selig said. ``It's an incredible story - not just for baseball, but for society.''
Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson threw out ceremonial first pitches, and fellow Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Dave Winfield were on hand, joined by actors Courtney B. Vance and Marlon Wayans. Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson sang ``The Star-Spangled Banner.''
Adding a personal touch were Robinson's widow, Rachel, and two Dodgers who knew him. Broadcaster Vin Scully paid tribute to Rachel Robinson, and Don Newcombe, Robinson's former teammate and a longtime Dodgers executive, looked on.
San Diego's Mike Cameron, who also wore No. 42, said this was a day he'd never forget.
``It was a pretty special moment to have all of the household names here, all of the Hall of Famers, and to get a chance to go out and play in probably one of the biggest games that I'll play in this year - besides going to the playoffs,'' he said.
Young (1-1), making his first start since signing a four-year, $14.5 million contract, allowed five runs in two-plus innings, and it would have been worse had Kevin Cameron not worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third.
``I was terrible,'' Young said. ``I just never found my rhythm and never found my groove. I put the guys in a hole early in the game and it was just too much to overcome.''
Young wrote about Robinson for his 2002 Princeton thesis, and said that in doing the work, he learned a tremendous respect and appreciation for the former Dodgers' star.
``I can't imagine, having to go through that, the courage it took, the discipline, and just how successful he was,'' said Young, a 27-year-old right-hander from Dallas. ``I mean, he wasn't just successful integrating the game. He was a great baseball player. He's a Hall of Fame baseball player. He wouldn't allow himself to fail, and that's tremendous.''
Selig presented Mrs. Robinson with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award for her work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, formed in 1973 to raise scholarship money for qualified minorities. Robinson died in October 1972 at age 53.
``She's made an enormous impact on our sport,'' Selig said. ``We are an institution with enormous social responsibilities. She keeps us focused on that.''
Robinson retired following the 1956 season - after the Dodgers traded him to the rival Giants - and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
His impact has been lasting. Mrs. Robinson said 1,100 scholarship students have graduated from college and 266 are presently in school.
``We needed to find a way to hold onto him,'' Mrs. Robinson said of her late husband. ``Jack's legacy is all over the place.''
Ceremonies were held at 10 of the 15 big league ballparks where games were scheduled Sunday - rain washed out games at the five other sites.
AP freelance writer Joe Resnick contributed to this report.