BOSTON, MA - For the 12th consecutive year, the Boston Red Sox will celebrate the life of Jackie Robinson by teaching New England students the story of his challenges and triumphs. Congressman Richard Neal will join the Red Sox in this year's tribute at the Van Sickle Middle School in Springfield, MA, and McMahon Elementary School in Holyoke, MA, on Friday, January 31, what would have been the Hall of Famer's 95th birthday and the eve of Black History Month.
The annual event was an inspiration for Congressman Neal's successful effort to introduce legislation to posthumously award Robinson with the Congressional Gold Medal, which took place March 2, 2005, in the Rotunda of the Capitol, with the President of the United States, Red Sox officials, and Robinson's widow, Rachel, on hand.
Joining Congressman Neal for Friday's tribute are Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Red Sox Hall of Famer Tommy Harper, award-winning raconteur Dick Flavin, Red Sox club officials, and the 2013 World Series Trophy, which is on tour throughout Red Sox Nation. Dr. Steve Schlein, a scholar of Robinson's life, will also participate in the events, which Adam Pellerin of NESN will moderate.
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 that started 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 son David; his 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.