Jackie Robinson who broke the color line in Major League Baseball in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers takes a swing at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (jackierobinson.com file photo)
Jackie Robinson Legacy is International
That’s Amaury News and Commentary
April 15,2020 marks the 73rd Anniversary of Jackie Robinson as the first African-American player in MLB,with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. His legacy and career was honored and his uniform number 42 retired by Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig 33 years ago on April 15,1997.
Robinson’s #42 was the first and only number retired by all MLB 30 teams. Generally people focus on African Americans who followed Robinson into baseball,but the great pioneer also opened the door for Black Latino players.
Jackie Robinson’s legacy goes beyond US borders. Because of Robinson, Latino players of dark skin were also able to come and play in the big leagues with their American brothers.
Today almost 33 percent of all players in MLB are born in Latin America(higher percentage in the minor leagues)and after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier,some great Latino black players,like Cuban-born Orestes(Minnie) Miñoso who signed as a rookie in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians, before becoming the last player in baseball history to play for five (50 years) different decades.
Minnie played from 1949 until 1980. The Cuban-born Miñoso was the first unquestionable black Latin American in the major leagues, although some others with some black ancestry had played in MLB. By early 1950’s other Latino’s of black skin included, Luis Márquez(Puerto Rico)signed by the Boston Braves and Cuban catcher Rafael(Ray)Noble with the New York Giants as well as Ozzie Virgil Sr.from the Dominican Republic.
According to SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) in 1947; 98.3 perfect of players were white,0.9 percent African-American, 0.7 percent Latinos and 0.0 percent Asian. Decades later, especially in the mid 1950’s the great Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico) and 1960’s many more came from Latin America, like Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Manny Mota, Felipe, Jesús and Mateo Alou, Tony Oliva, Luis Tiant, Leonardo(Leo) Cárdenas, Tony González, Francisco(Panchón)Herrera, José Cardenal, Dagoberto(Campy)Campaneris and more not mentioned.
Some of these Latino players are remembered with statues in the cities where they played,the one and only Roberto Clemente not only with a Statue at PNC Park but with the Roberto Clemente Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh over the Allegheny River.
Today all baseball fans around the world honor the great #42 Jackie Robinson,because he is also a historic figure in countries like Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panamá, Puerto Rico, México,Nicaragua,Venezuela, Jamaica and all countries where baseball is a major sport, not to mention in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
“I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect” -Jackie Robinson.
Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the vice president of the Major League Baseball Hispanic Heritage Museum and does News and Commentary each week at http://www.sportsradioservice.com