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Mets commemorate Robinson's accomplishments

4/20/2007 - MLB New York Mets

NEW YORK -- Rachel Robinson was torn about where to
celebrate the 60th anniversary of her husband, Jackie, breaking
baseball's color barrier.

She ended up taking part in ceremonies in Los Angeles and New
York.

The Mets paid tribute to Jackie Robinson on Friday night, five
days after their game against the Washington Nationals was rained
out on the actual anniversary of Robinson's debut for the Brooklyn
Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

"I'm excited that I'm able to be in both places," Rachel
Robinson said before the pregame ceremonies Friday, "because both
teams have been very good to us as a foundation and my heart is
with both of them and my fanship."

Mets manager Willie Randolph wore No. 42 in honor of Robinson
and escorted Rachel to the podium for the commemoration, along with
Jackie's son, David. Three tribute videos were shown on the video
scoreboard at Shea Stadium, and the Mets also recognized four Negro
League players during the ceremony.

"His heroics transcended far beyond baseball," David Robinson
said of his father. "...Tonight we honor a man and barriers broken
60 years ago."

Most of baseball celebrated the anniversary on Sunday when more
than 200 players, managers and coaches wore his number.
Commissioner Bud Selig also 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.

Rachel Robinson received a standing ovation from the crowd as it
filed in for the game against NL East-rival Atlanta. One fan held
up a sign that read "Thank you Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby."
Less than three months after Robinson broke baseball's color
barrier in 1947, Doby made his debut for the Indians, becoming the
AL's first black player.

When Robinson played in his first game with the Dodgers,
"Whites inside only" and "Coloreds entrance" were signs of the
time. He was subjected to racist remarks from players and fans
alike. But Dodgers executive Branch Rickey made Robinson his choice
to break the color barrier because he believed he was mature enough
and tough enough to survive and thrive.

"Being a kid growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York,
Jackie was my total inspiration," Randolph said. "To be able to
wear his No. 42 is a tremendous honor. It's something that I'll
cherish and remember the rest of my life.

"He meant a lot to a lot of us, not just athletes and
African-Americans, but socially in this country, what he did off
the field was monumental. It's just a great day."

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. He died in October 1972 at age 53.

The amount of black players in the big leagues has dwindled in
recent years -- only 8.4 percent of major leaguers last season,
according to one study -- and Mrs. Robinson said the numbers
would've disappointed her husband.

"He would've just said 'We need to fight harder. We need to
find out what the factors are that are causing this decrease and do
something about it,"' she said. "He was a person of action and he
didn't want to see us be complacent about our situation."