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04/15/09 10:55 PM ET

Hall of Famers pay respect at Rotunda

Morgan on hand at Citi Field for Robinson Day dedication

NEW YORK -- Imagine what the Hall of Fame would be if not for Jackie Robinson. Sparse, to say the least.

Joe Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman best known for his time with the Reds, stopped in the middle of Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda on Wednesday to consider that -- baseball without Robinson, its foremost social icon.

It was a sobering thought.

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"He was bigger than just being a baseball player, and I think this captures all of that," Morgan said of the Rotunda. "That's what's important. The older guys like myself, we know who Jackie was. We know what he went through and what he did. I think this will give the young people in the next generation an opportunity to understand who this guy was, and what he did for our country."

Morgan and Frank Robinson, Hall of Famers each, were on hand Wednesday to witness the dedication of the Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field. And both of them feel indebted to the man who walked before them.

Prior to the Rotunda, baseball's only daily reminder of Robinson hung at the back of every ballpark, where every club retired Robinson's No. 42 in 1997. And as fitting of a tribute as that is, it is not nearly as overpowering as an entranceway dedicated to Robinson's name and his legacy, through which thousands of Mets fans will walk at every home game.

"It's easy to just look at a number and say it's retired," Morgan said. "But when you look at this, it chronicles his entire life, so it's pretty special."

There are pictures detailing Robinson's life, an enormous No. 42 monument at the center, and sweeping staircases evoking the rotunda in Robinson's old Brooklyn home, Ebbets Field. On the floor, Robinson's nine cherished values -- courage, integrity, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice, commitment, teamwork and excellence -- are permanently engraved. And that, more than anything, is what struck a fellow Hall of Famer.

"Every young person that comes through those turnstiles will see this," Morgan said. "Young people, they're interested in what they see in front of them. So they see this, they'll be willing to read more about Jackie and know more about Jackie. And in learning more about Jackie, I think you learn more about yourself and you learn more about what you should be doing with your life. His nine values just kind of create and tell you what you should be doing with your life."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.