Randolph hopes to share No. 42 tribute
Manager to keep No. 12, but hopes players will honor Robinson
NEW YORK -- When players and coaches around the league began signing on to wear No. 42 during last April's annual Jackie Robinson Day celebration, Mets manager Willie Randolph reveled in the opportunity. Now, he'd like to share it.
Though Commissioner Bud Selig announced on Tuesday that any player or coach who wanted to wear the number could do so during next week's Jackie Robinson Day festivities, Randolph said he would be more likely to decline the offer this year.
"I'll probably just keep my number," Randolph said. "Maybe one of the players would want to wear it, and that would be fine."
Randolph was open to other players wearing No. 42 alongside him last season, but the Mets, stressing their manager's Brooklyn roots and close connection with the Robinson family, requested that only Randolph take part in the tribute. So, while most teams had multiple players wear the number last season -- and four clubs made it a roster requirement -- the Mets had only one representative.
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his wife, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources, as well as Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history, in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.
Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. cooked up the uniform number tribute last season, approaching Selig with his request. Selig was so enamored with the idea that he allowed any player -- regardless of race -- to wear Robinson's number if he wished. The Mets have only two black players on their current roster, Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley, each of whom might choose wear the number next week in Randolph's place.
"You're always interested in doing it," said Anderson, who wore No. 42 along with the rest of his Dodgers teammates during last April's game. "If they give me an option to wear it, of course I'd consider it. That's an easy something to want to be a part of."
This year's ceremony will take place next Tuesday, on the 61st anniversary of Robinson's breaking baseball's color barrier -- and for Randolph, the day should be special regardless of what uniform number he might wear.
"We're still honoring Jackie," Randolph said. "If players want to do that, then that's a tremendous honor."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.