April 20, 2017
LAWT Sports Writer
The unveiling of the new Jackie Robinson statue at Dodgers Stadium brought together people who were affected by and a part of the baseball player’s tremendous legacy.
“We will add a new element to this place,” said Entertainment Tonight co-host Kevin Frazier who was the master of ceremony for the event. “It is a feature that pays tribute to the team’s Brooklyn past and more importantly, one that honors one American hero whose achievements are respected throughout the world.”
The bronze statue is located on the Left Field Reserve Plaza, one of the many entrances to the stadium.
Not only did fans and family members of Robinson bear witness, but historical figures in Major League Baseball and beneficiaries of the Jackie Robinson Foundation were present at the ceremony.
Robinson’s two children mentioned how this day affected their mother, Rachel, who is going on 95 years old.
“To go full circle is a wonderful thing in anybody’s life,” said David, second son of Robinson. “As my sister says, we’ve come from the west coast, from Pasadena to Broooklyn and back.”
Sharon, Robinson’s daughter, enjoyed seeing Rachel reminiscing with legendary sportscaster Vin Scully.
“To see her rally and be here with us today, for me, that’s part of the good emotions,” Sharon said. “I think she felt good that she was well represented.”
The descendants of both Jackie and his brother, Berlin Olympic silver medalist Mack Robinson were at the ceremony. Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten explained how Robinson legacy still has a lasting impact.
“I often say that the Dodgers have had the greatest impact of any sports team ever anywhere in any sport, popular culture and society at large,” Kasten said. “That is largely due to the bravery, the heroism of Jackie.”
Teammates of Jackie, like Steve Garvey and Don Newcombe, were in attendance.
“I think it’s the ultimate honor for a man, especially with a Dodger organization, because it’s for all of baseball,” Garvey said.
Jackie’s son David talked about the granite base of the statue, which features quotes that show Jackie’s civil rights advocacy.
“Put together the statue and the base, it makes a very strong physical presence,” David said. “You want that honor for a great man for a great struggle.”
Robinson hoped to one day see a Black person in the third-base Coach’s Box. In 1975 Frank Robinson made Robinson’s dream come true by becoming the first African American manager of a baseball team.
“I respected him as a man, as a player, even more than that, for what he did for the game and society.” Frank said. “If it wasn’t for Jackie, naturally I would not have achieved what I have achieved in life.”
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully shared two anecdotes about his time with Robinson; one was about a time when Robinson challenged him to an ice skating race and another about a seriously threatening letter saying “the deed would be done” during a series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Left fielder Gene Hermanski presented the idea of all the members on the team wearing a No. 42 jersey to hide Robinson.
“That seemed funny at the day,” Scully said. “In 2004, Gene Hermanski words from 1950 came to fruition.”
Statue sculptor Branly Cadet noted how he is a “direct beneficiary” of the heroic acts of the Dodgers, Robinson and his family.
“It’s my intention to create a sculpture that captured Jackie’s courage and dynamism both on the field and, metaphorically at least, off the field,” Cadet said. “May it inspire us all to continue the hard work of working towards the greater good.”
Cadet presented framed photos of the statue to Rachel, Sharon and David. Dodgers part owner Earvin “Magic” Johnson mentioned that honoring Robinson was one of many goals all the owners had in mind along with improving the roster and building up the fan base.
“Somebody had to pave the way for me,” Johnson said. “In my life, I’ve had a couple heroes in sports: Muhammad Ali as well as Jackie.”