To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, the Seattle Mariners, baseball’s oldest Major League team, invited two of their Jackie Robinson teammates to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight’s home game.
Manny Alexander, at that time the Seattle team’s second baseman, was on the roster with Robinson when he inked the National League’s first major league contract, per the New York Times.
The two threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the same ceremony on 2 September of 1967, 46 years to the date today.
During the pregame ceremony, Alexander said,
“The best feelings in baseball today are I get an ovation with every at-bat and every hit.” “When I was first drafted, we started in Kansas City. We went all the way around the United States playing against the pros. Most Negro League ballplayers never got to play against the big boys.” “In any of these intercollegiate games when we win there are Black players that get hooted down after scoring their first run. That’s the only place most Negro League ballplayers ever played. But in between of the majors, the big league play is non-stop entertainment for Negro League players.”
One more fact about Robinson’s batting average: he hit .382 for the season. But that isn’t even the greatest hitting record the Mariners outfielder had in 1962.
In an article published in Sports Illustrated, Seattle manager Joe Boyd recounted the now-legendary game where Anderson hit the inning-ending double play ball in a tough situation. Boyd said,
“It was not like [the play] we were not gonna make… I said, ‘Buster, can you swing today?’ He said, ‘Yes, Coach.’”
While later this month marks 50 years since Robinson broke the color barrier and launched a new era in baseball history, tonight sees the baseball club’s Mariners play the Texas Rangers in the first regular season game played in a league designed for African Americans, the Negro League Baseball Museum-Seattle (of which Anderson was a key founding member). A community forum will also feature former Kansas City and Detroit baseball player Rusty Wallace, Oakland A’s great Dusty Baker, and MLB Vice President Tony Clark.
Meanwhile in the greater Seattle area, an online crowdfunding campaign to build a Mariners jersey featuring Sammy Sosa’s trademark “no mas!” gesture is raising money for a Yankees hat commemorating Babe Ruth’s last-inning home run at Seattle’s Safeco Field.
From Seattle to New York to Washington, DC, the barriers that once separated Jackie Robinson from Jackie Robinson Jr. are as familiar as the differences in ballfields themselves. Though previously naysayers were quick to respond that baseball was lost in the 21st century, it’s now clear that baseball welcomes all those who deserve to have their stories told, play the game, play it hard, and keep it right.