Robinson tribute will take place Sunday

Robinson tribute will take place Sunday

BOSTON -- After their first chance to pay tribute to Jackie Robinson was rained out, the Red Sox will honor the man who broke baseball's color barrier prior to Sunday night's game against the Yankees.

Center fielder Coco Crisp, designated hitter David Ortiz and third-base coach DeMarlo Hale are slated to wear Robinson's No. 42.

"This game is what it is in today's day ... because you have athletes from everywhere on the planet playing it," Ortiz said. "People who come to the game watch the game because they expect us to put on a good show out there. So if you think about how things would've been just with one kind of athlete in the whole game, it would look funny."

Red Sox skipper Terry Francona encouraged Hale to wear the jersey after Hale's initial impulse was to defer to the players. In the clubhouses of Francona's youth -- his father, Tito, broke into the Majors in 1956, less than a decade after Robinson -- African-American players were already making significant contributions. The Red Sox were the league's last team to integrate, in 1959.

Francona agreed that Robinson's legacy deserved to be celebrated. But he also cautioned against getting "lost" in the positive message of the day, which is also meant to remind people of Robinson's burdensome road to acceptance.

"It's a little bit of a shame that we have to have this day," Francona said. "Because, 60 years ago, [of] the color of somebody's skin they weren't treated the same. To me, that's humiliating. So I hope that message doesn't get lost either."

Because of last Sunday's rainout, fans also missed out on seeing if Crisp would test opposing batteries by trying to steal home, a possibility Crisp had discussed with the media. Robinson is often remembered for stealing home, which he did 19 times in his career, more than any other player since World War I.

Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.

Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources, as well as Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history while addressing critical issues of character development such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.