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Boston celebrates Robinson's legacy

Boston celebrates Robinson's legacy

BOSTON -- Seven days later, the scene changed, the curtains opened and Jackie Robinson Day enjoyed an entirely different setting than it had a week before.

Three members of the Red Sox still wore No. 42 -- David Ortiz, late lineup scratch Coco Crisp and third-base coach DeMarlo Hale -- and they still occupied a stage, Fenway Park, where Robinson infamously tried, and failed, to earn a second look from the Red Sox in 1945.

Last Sunday, hail and sleet fell on Fenway Park, freezing a celebration that had long been in the works. Commissioner Bud Selig "unretired" Robinson's No. 42 for a day so that players around the Majors could honor the former Brooklyn Dodgers star. And that they did -- more than 200 of them, including the entire 25-man roster of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Hale was traveling with the Red Sox in Toronto when he learned that team officials had rescheduled Jackie Robinson Day for the following Sunday.

"It was nice to see," he said, "because we want to be a part of it, and we understand the history that is part of it."

On this Sunday, temperatures lingered in the mid-60s as the sun set behind a clear horizon, and they stayed there when professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Crisp. Standing next to him was former Red Sox starter Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, who was also featured in a video montage of former and current African-American and Latino Red Sox entitled "Where Would We Be."

And then Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka emerged from the bullpen, the beneficiary of a roar of approval from the Boston crowd, 60 years after Robinson cleared the way for unimagined opportunities.

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• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
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Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

"I think race relationships are better today, no question," Hale said. "You look at the different cultures and different countries that are playing at this Major League level, that was definitely something positive."

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 Major League Baseball's 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's debut, his 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 in 1973 by Robinson's wife to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources.

Another program is 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 MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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