Sliding home: Jackie Robinson gets statue at Dodger Stadium
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 15, 2017 05:18 PM
FILE - In this June 30, 1971, file photo, Jackie Robinson poses at his home in Stamford, Conn. The first statue in Dodger Stadium history belongs to Jackie Robinson. The team will unveil his likeness during Jackie Robinson Day festivities on Saturday, April 15, 2017, with his wife and extended family in attendance on the 70th anniversary of him breaking baseball's color barrier (AP Photo/File)
22BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — He was the first black man to play in the major leagues, ending six decades of racial segregation, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Fittingly, Jackie Robinson is the first to be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium. It will be unveiled Saturday on the 70th anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Two years ago on Jackie Robinson Day, owner and chairman Mark Walter suggested a sculpture belonged at Dodger Stadium of the six-time All-Star second baseman who starred when the team was in Brooklyn.
"He just felt it was an idea whose time had come," said Janet Marie Smith, the team's senior vice president of planning and development.
The 77-inch (1.95m) tall bronze statue depicts Robinson as a rookie in 1947 stealing home, a nod to his aggressive baserunning. It stands in the left field reserve plaza, with sweeping views of downtown Los Angeles in one direction and Elysian Park in the other.
Smith said the location was chosen because it's where the majority of fans enter the hillside ballpark that opened 55 years ago.
On the statue's granite base are three of Robinson's quotes as chosen by the family, including wife Rachel's favorite: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
"Our goal was to both celebrate Jackie Robinson as an athlete and to acknowledge the important role he had in civil rights and social change in America," Smith said.
The family shared numerous photos of Robinson with sculptor Branly Cadet of Oakland, California.
"They really wanted me to get the likeness and I assured them I'd be working very hard on that," he said. "That was the element I spent the most time on to capture an expression that would be happening in that moment."
Now 94, Rachel Robinson is traveling from the East Coast to attend the unveiling, along with daughter Sharon and son David. Their other son, Jackie Jr., died in a car accident in 1971.
"This is going to be a very special time," Sharon Robinson said. "My dad was a humble person and here he is 70 years later being recognized. He used to come home and say, 'I got a standing ovation today,' and he would be so shocked."
Some of the biggest names in Dodgers history will be on hand: retired broadcaster Vin Scully, who was friendly with Robinson; pitching greats Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, who were Robinson's teammates when the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series; and Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda.
The first 40,000 fans at Saturday's game against Arizona receive a replica of the statue.
Robinson's statue at the ballpark is the eighth of him, the most of any American athlete, according to two British researchers.
Statistician Chris Stride from the University of Sheffield and Ffion Thomas, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Central Lancashire, have cataloged Robinson's monuments as part of their Sporting Statues Project database.
They found just two of his existing statues depict him playing baseball, while the rest commemorate Robinson's social achievements or association with a particular location. Two oversized busts of Jackie and Mack Robinson, an Olympic track medalist, are located across from Pasadena City Hall.
Since 2004, baseball has honored Robinson's barrier-breaking career every April, the one day every player on every team wears his retired No. 42 jersey. The players' union is making a grant this week from its Players Trust to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
"It's not about looking back so much as it is feeling inspired," Sharon Robinson said. "There's still lots and lots of struggles in this world and it's a very complicated place. Jackie Robinson showed us you can stand up, be strong and be respected, and play great ball under tremendous pressure."