On what would have been Jackie Robinson's 94th birthday, his son, David, joined the Red Sox Thursday in celebrating the life of the man who broke baseball's color barrier, appearing at a pair of Boston middle schools to help teach students his father's inspirational story of strong character and values.
It was the 11th consecutive year the Sox have held such an event, but it was the first time David Robinson participated in the effort, which visited Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park and McCormack Middle School in Dorchester. Red Sox hall of famer Tommy Harper, local broadcast legend Dick Flavin, Robinson scholar Dr. Steve Schlein, and team officials also took part.
“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. Robinson had a tryout with the Red Sox before signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but was allegedly besieged by racial slurs during the workout; it wasn't until 1959 that the Sox became the last major league team to integrate their roster.
“They charged us with confronting the past and ushering in a new day," Steinberg continued. "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 (Thursday).”
Harrison Ford will play Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman will play Robinson, in a major motion picture due to be released on April 12, three days before the 66th anniversary of Robinson becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues. Its title is "42," which was Robinson's number, and which has been retired across Major League Baseball since 1997.
Prior to his son's involvement Thursday, the Red Sox have brought in other "primary sources" for the event, including Robinson's daughter, Sharon; Negro League star Buck O'Neil; author Roger Kahn; and players, coaches, and scholars who were beneficiaries of Robinson's efforts.
Photos courtesy of Elevate Communications
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