BOSTON, MA - For the 11th consecutive year, the Boston Red Sox will celebrate the life of Jackie Robinson by teaching Boston children the story of his challenges and triumphs. For the first time, his son David will join the annual Red Sox' effort. The pioneering Hall of Famer would have celebrated his 94th birthday tomorrow, which marks the eve of Black History Month.
Red Sox Hall of Famer Tommy Harper and award-winning raconteur Dick Flavin will join Robinson and club officials at Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park and McCormack Middle School in Dorchester. Dr. Steve Schlein, a scholar of Robinson's life, will also participate in the events, which Adam Pellerin of NESN will moderate.
"When our new ownership arrived in 2002, they knew they were inheriting a franchise with a past that was in some ways glorious, and in some ways ignominious," said Dr. Charles A. Steinberg, the Red Sox' Senior Advisor to the President/CEO, who spearheaded the initiative in 2003. "They charged us with confronting the past and ushering in a new day.
"We believe that Boston children should learn the story of Robinson, what he endured, and how his character led him to succeed in what many consider the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Children are free to dream of any career, and to pursue those dreams and careers, thanks in part to Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. It's an important story to tell. Hollywood will do so in grand style this April, and we are doing so in our intimate, grass roots style tomorrow."
Robinson became the first African-American to play in the major leagues on April 15, 1947, when he donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and stepped onto the baseball diamond at Ebbets Field for a game against the Boston Braves. Dodgers President/General Manager Branch Rickey selected Robinson as much for his values and strength of character as for his baseball skills that helped him earn the 1947 Rookie Of the Year Award, the 1949 National League Most Valuable Player Award, and six trips to the All-Star Game in a 10-year major league career during which the Dodgers won six N.L. pennants and the 1955 World Series.
Many scholars recognize Robinson's pioneering feat as a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement in the United States. His outspoken leadership on issues of civil and human rights continued following his baseball career, when he served as a corporate executive, a civil servant, and a major figure in national politics until his death in 1972. Robinson worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and influenced Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.
In 1997, Commissioner of Baseball Allan H. (Bud) Selig made Robinson's Number 42 the first to ever be retired by all 30 major league clubs.
The Red Sox have sought to provide primary sources through the years, including Jackie's daughter, Sharon; beloved Negro League star Buck O'Neil; and friend and author Roger Kahn. Speakers have also included a host of beneficiaries of his efforts, including players, coaches, and scholars.
The annual event helped serve as a catalyst for the effort to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Robinson, posthumously, which took place March 2, 2005, in the Rotunda of the Capitol, with the President of the United States and Jackie's widow, Rachel Robinson.