Jackie Robinson changed baseball when he stepped onto the field on April 15, 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The first Black player in the major leagues since the 1880s, he was under tremendous pressure to succeed—and succeed he did. His talent and ability as a ballplayer was undeniable and he maintained his composure in the face of racist taunts both on field and off. Before the end of the 1947 other African Americans would join him in the big leagues, including fellow future Hall of Famer Larry Doby.
Over the years Major League Baseball has strived to find the proper way to pay tribute to Robinson’s legacy and his unique status in the game. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. On the 50th anniversary of his debut, Robinson’s number “42” was retired across baseball, and in 2004, April 15 was celebrated as the first “Jackie Robinson Day.” In 2007, Ken Griffey Jr. asked for, and received permission from Robinson’s family and the Commissioner, to wear “42” on his jersey for “Jackie Robinson Day.” Over 150 players joined him in tribute to their hero. It soon became an annual tradition and eventually all major leaguers, players, managers and coaches wear “42” on April 15, keeping the memory of Robinson’s accomplishments alive for new generations of fans to appreciate.