Royals recognize impact of Jackie Robinson on anniversary of his first game in majors

Royals manager Ned Yost discusses Jackie Robinson’s legacy

Royals manager Ned Yost spoke to reporters prior to Monday's game against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. The game came on the 72nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.
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Royals manager Ned Yost spoke to reporters prior to Monday's game against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. The game came on the 72nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.

With a jersey hanging in his locker a few feet behind him displaying the number 42 and socks on the shelf prominently displaying a Robinson 42 logo, Royals outfielder Terrance Gore made a comment that truly underscored the difference Jackie Robinson spearheaded in the game of baseball.

“During my whole career I’ve never been judged or nothing like that,” Gore said of being a black baseball player. “I don’t see people in a color or anything like that. My family, I married a white woman and my son is mixed. My family has always been ‘We don’t look at color.’ We look at inside more than outside.”

Robinson’s sacrifices, the blatant and abhorrent racism he endured and threats he stared down to play in the major leagues, paved the path for Gore to enjoy the experience he’s had in his chosen sport.

Major League Baseball on Monday celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, the 72nd anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Along with every player wearing his jersey number — the only number retired by every franchise in the majors — teams also sported a commemorative sleeve patch and major league ballparks across the country recognized Robinson’s legacy.

The poignancy of his comments on the anniversary of Robinson’s debut didn’t escape Gore’s notice.

“That’s a whole different ballgame than when he was playing,” Gore said. “I don’t think I could’ve said that when he was playing. It’s definitely changed, that’s for sure.”

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Robinson, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and six-time All-Star, played 10 seasons in the majors and won National League Rookie of the Year in 1947 and NL MVP in 1949. He batted .342 with 37 stolen bases and 124 RBIs in his MVP season.

While tales of Robinson’s perseverance and poise have been conveyed for decades, the intense and outright bigotry he faced were hammered home with a younger generation of players through the 2013 release of the movie “42” starring actor Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.

“I’ve heard the stories and people talk,” Gore said. “I’ve heard what he’d been through, but when I actually watched the movie ‘42,’ I was like dang! I don’t know how he kept his composure when he needed to keep his composure and how he continued to play the game and keep everything outside — outside. Between the lines, just play the game no matter what happens.”

Robinson remains the only athlete to letter in four sports at UCLA, also excelling at track and field, football, and basketball.

Royals hitting coach Terry Bradshaw grew up a three-sport athlete in Virginia and attended Norfolk State University on a basketball and baseball scholarship. After a 10-year professional career that included a cup of coffee in the majors, Bradshaw has continued to make baseball his career.

“When I was coming up as a young player, not just my professional career, but in little league and high school you always heard the name Jackie Robinson,” Bradshaw said. “Obviously when you hear the name, you go and try to do some research and you kind of learn his story a little bit and get a great appreciation for a guy that was a trailblazer and all the things he went through.”

Bradshaw said he always aimed to play the game with passion every time he stepped on the field, but knowing Robinson’s story made him want to attack every second on the field even more in order to honor Robinson’s memory.

“Just to be able to go through that in that time and play the game where there wasn’t any Afro Americans, it just shows a lot about who he was as a person and his character,” Bradshaw said.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.