A day to remember No. 42

Updated: April 15, 2012, 10:55 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Jerome Williams has played all over the world, and at almost every stop, he has angled to get the same number, not knowing for sure if he would get it. While playing in Puerto Rico, he was second in the pecking order for picking numbers, and the player who had first dibs chose No. 40.

Williams immediately grabbed No. 42, and the teammate who had picked No. 40 asked why.

"Jackie Robinson," said Williams.

"Oh, jeez, I forgot," his teammate replied, already regretting his choice.

The Angels' pitcher has worn No. 42 in Mexico, in Taiwan and while playing independent league ball. So tonight will be a big night for him.

"It's my first time pitching against the Yankees, the first time in Yankee Stadium," he said Saturday, sitting in front of his locker. "And it's the first time I'll wear 42 here [in the big leagues]."

Mariano Rivera is the last active player to wear No. 42, and once he's retired, the only day a player will wear it is April 15 of every season -- the day every player wears it in honor of Robinson. The first number that Rivera was assigned in Yankees camp, as a young pitcher, was No. 58. Rivera is not one to ask for anything; he was assigned No. 42, and didn't immediately make the connection to Robinson, he recalled.

But in 1997, Major League Baseball retired the number, other than for those players who already wore it, such as Rivera. A few years ago, Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, asked Rivera to participate in an event, and he remembers talking about Jackie, and the number. "For me to be the last to wear it is an honor," Rivera said. "But it also is a lot of responsibility. You have to wear it with a lot of pride."

As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Reggie Jackson can remember going to Shibe Park and watching Robinson play, never taking his eyes off the Dodger. Then, after the game, Jackson -- who guesses he was about 7 or 8 years old at the time -- remembers waiting outside the visitors clubhouse. "I was squeezing between legs, and then I looked up," Jackson said.

There was Jackie Robinson.