BOSTON (AP) — Everybody in uniform at the Tampa Bay Rays game Monday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park wore the number “42” as Major League Baseball celebrated its fifth annual Jackie Robinson Day.
Fans will see more of that number on jerseys before the next couple of days are out. All the teams in action — there were eight night games on the schedule, in addition to the Rays-Red Sox day game — were asked to wear Robinson’s number on the 66th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Teams that didn’t play on Monday planned to pay tribute Tuesday.
The anniversary is drawing special attention this year with the release of the film “42” about Robinson, which went into wide release over the weekend.
“We had a screening down in spring training,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It was open to all of our personnel.”
More than 100 players and other club employees watched the film at a theater in Port Charlotte, Fla., the Rays’ spring training site, “and I think a lot of guys walked away with a greater appreciation” of Robinson’s contribution, Maddon said.
Maddon said Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947, helped lead to the broader civil rights movement.
“I still don’t think people understand how much it plays into the Martin Luther King situation,” he said. “The revolution that occurred at that particular moment, it mattered. That had to happen first to set that whole thing up.
“So when you’re talking about Jackie Robinson, I don’t think people realize the significance and really courage that went behind that, and in the movie it points that out — the courage to not fight back, to be able to win over that particular mind set to be able to make all of this work.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said baseball “reflects society in so many ways, whether it’s the color barriers being broken down. In our clubhouse you’ve got six or seven countries coming together. As a group of 25, you look to not only co-exist, but (recognize) the individuality of everyone in there.
“Certainly, the Robinson family and, certainly, Jackie himself may be one of the most significant situations in our country’s history, breaking down segregation to the point of inclusion and I think that happens in the game today.”
The movie “42” earned an estimated $27.3 million over the weekend, according to Warner Brothers, its distributor.
The subject’s popularity extends to the sale of licensed sports merchandise. Fanatics.com, a large online retailer of those items, said sales of Jackie Robinson gear on its site since the season began increased by more than 1,000 percent over the same time period last year.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)