Bombings in Boston cast pall on Jackie Robinson celebration
What began as an annual celebration to salute the man who broke baseball’s color barrier 66 years ago turned somber after a pair of explosions Monday near the finish line in Boston - about a mile from Fenway Park - killed three people and injured more than 130.
Later that night, Major League Baseball went on with ceremonies for the fifth Jackie Robinson Day at stadiums all over the country and north of the border in Toronto.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this horrible occurrence and we are monitoring the situation,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said in a statement. “The safety of everyone that comes to our ballparks is always our top priority and we will continue to do everything to ensure a safe environment for our fans.”
There were moments of silence before each of the five early night games, including in Toronto, where the Blue Jays hosted the Chicago White Sox. At Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, President Barack Obama’s remarks to the nation were shown on the video board while the Phillies were taking batting practice. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics hosted games later Monday night.
The game between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays started at 11:05 a.m. on Patriots Day in Massachusetts and ended about an hour before the bombings. Fans near Fenway Park, some who had recently exited, could hear the explosions.
All the teams in action were asked to wear Robinson’s number, retired throughout baseball in 1997. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only active player who still wears the number, and he has said he is retiring after this season.
Teams that didn’t play on Monday planned to pay tribute to Robinson on Tuesday.
Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, is drawing special attention this year with the release of the film “42,” which went into wide release last weekend.
In Minnesota, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau saw a screening of the movie in spring training and was pleasantly surprised to see brief footage of himself running onto the field during some of the stock shots of players paying homage to Robinson by wearing his No. 42.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so it was pretty cool,” Morneau said. “Just quick running across the screen, but to see yourself in a movie of that importance is pretty cool.”
The Rays had a special screening, too.
More than 100 players and other club employees watched the film at a theater in Port Charlotte, Florida, the Rays’ spring training site, “and I think a lot of guys walked away with a greater appreciation” of Robinson’s contribution, manager Joe Maddon said before the Rays lost, 3-2, to the Red Sox.
Maddon said Robinson’s debut helped lead to the broader civil rights movement.
“I still don’t think people understand how much it plays into the Martin Luther King situation,” he said. “The revolution that occurred at that particular moment, it mattered. That had to happen first to set that whole thing up.
“So when you’re talking about Jackie Robinson, I don’t think people realize the significance and really the courage that went behind that, and in the movie it points that out the courage to not fight back, to be able to win over that particular mind-set to be able to make all of this work,” he added. AP