CINCINNATI (AP) – Ken Griffey Jr. plans to wear No. 42 on April 15, honoring the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.
The Cincinnati Reds outfielder called baseball commissioner Bud Selig and got permission to wear the retired number for the one day. Major League Baseball then invited players on other teams to do the same.
“What I think: If he didn’t achieve or didn’t overcome the racial tension, would I be wearing this uniform?” Griffey said Wednesday. “Or, when was the next opportunity that an African-American would get a chance to put on another major league uniform if he didn’t achieve what he did?”
Baseball plans to honor the anniversary before a game between the San Diego Padres and the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Griffey wore No. 42 on the 50th anniversary, and thought it would be appropriate to do it again. Baseball retired the number 10 years ago as a way of honoring Robinson’s contribution to the game.
“I called Bud because it is retired, and we talked about it for a few minutes,” Griffey said. “He said he’d call me back. He just wanted to make sure it was OK with everybody. It was.
“Usually when you get a call from somebody, (it’s because) you’re in trouble. But in this case, it was just a nice, good conversation about honoring somebody who did so much for the game of baseball.”
Griffey wore No. 24 during his 11 seasons in Seattle. He switched to No. 30 – his father’s number – when he was traded before the 2000 season to Cincinnati. Tony Perez’s No. 24 has been retired by the Reds.
Griffey switched to No. 3 last season before the World Baseball Classic so his father, Ken Sr., could wear his old number as a coach in the international competition. Griffey continues to wear No. 3.
During his phone conversation with Selig, the commissioner raised the idea of allowing other players to wear No. 42.
“He asked me did I mind?” Griffey said. “I said no. I think everybody should be able to wear it, whoever wants to wear that number.”
Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera is the only active major leaguer still allowed to wear No. 42 on a regular basis. Selig expects players on other teams to follow Griffey’s example.
“This is a wonderful gesture on Ken’s part and a fitting tribute to the great Jackie Robinson and one, I believe, that all clubs will eagerly endorse,” Selig said in a statement. “Jackie continues to be an inspiration to all of our players, and his impact will be felt for as long as our game is played.”
Every game on April 15 will honor Robinson in some way. The Reds are playing the Cubs in Chicago that day.
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