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Sunday, April 15, 2012
Yankees thrilled to honor Jackie Robinson


In the top shelf of Curtis Granderson's locker, there's a figurine of Jackie Robinson in a slide, a miniature version of his iconic steal of home against the Yankees in 1955.

At his parents' home, there are side-by-side photos of Robinson's steal and one of Granderson sliding into home in similar fashion against Toronto on Jackie Robinson Day in 2009, as well as the jersey he wore that day.

For the Yankees outfielder, as well his teammates, honoring the first player to break the color barrier on Jackie Robinson Day is always a special moment. Sunday is the 65-year anniversary of Robinson debuting with the Brooklyn Dodgers and all teams wear Robinson's No. 42.

"This day is the reason why I get the chance to play this great game of baseball," Granderson said before the Yankees faced the Angels. "Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier 65 years ago and doing a lot of things not only for baseball but the Civil Rights movement, allowing African Americans like myself, other minorities (to play).

"As you look around this clubhouse, there's Latin America, Asian America, Europe and everywhere else get a chance to play this great game all because of one person and that was Jackie Robinson."

The center fielder appreciates that players are allowed to wear Robinson's jersey once a year on the date of Robison's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The jersey has been retired across baseball except for those who were wearing the jersey when it was retired in 1997, with only Yankees closer Mariano Rivera still donning it.

Rivera, who was given the number by the Yankees, said it's a privilege to be the last one to wear Robinson's number. Being a minority wearing that number also carries special significance to Rivera, and he added that it's an honor and challenge to carry the legacy of the number.

The all-time saves leader complimented baseball on its efforts on Jackie Robinson Day, including the recent expansion to let all players wear the number.

"He got lost a little but I think Major League baseball is doing a tremendous job of trying to get it back," Rivera said. "I think Major League baseball is doing a tremendous job to put in the minds of the fans who Jackie Robinson is."

Granderson will be wearing high socks as well as customized shoes that honor Robinson. The shoes are designed by New Balance and have 42 written on the top of the heel as well as the flap, and are black and white. He's going to auction them, as well as a game-worn jersey, and give all the proceeds to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

He added that there's a different feeling when he puts on that No. 42 jersey each year and likes looking around the field and seeing all his teammates with that number. This is the fourth year in which all players across baseball wear Robinson's famous number.

"Guys are enjoying it," Granderson said. "I think it's a great thing for baseball and a great thing for life in general and continuing to promote his legacy. I don't think it's been forgotten by anyone."