Tomorrow marks the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Last year baseball began encouraging all players and umpires to wear number 42 in Jackie’s honor. Most do it. Mariano Rivera, however, controversially refuses to change from the number he has always worn. How he doesn’t catch hell for this I have no idea, but that’s what happens when the media is so sick with east coast bias. I digress.
It’s probably an unpopular position, but I’m rather ambivalent about 42 being retired in the first place. The Dodgers should do it because Jackie was their guy, but I always found it cool when the Mo Vaughns of the world chose to wear number 42 as a tribute. I go back and forth on the idea of retired numbers to being with, actually. Sometimes I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes I think it’s rather silly. As I sit here this afternoon I’m struck by the notion that exactly no one would forget Jackie Robinson if we let someone choose to wear number 42 as an inspirational and reverential gesture.
That minor point aside, tomorrow isn’t all about history. Major League baseball has tied in multiple charitable and scholarship programs both on its own behalf and in conjunction with the Jackie Robinson foundation and tomorrow will serve as a reminder and, in some cases, fundraisers for many of those programs (details here).
I like that aspect of Jackie Robinson Day much more than the solemn remembrances which, for as nice as they are, have a habit of turning Robinson into a secular saint, however unwittingly. As a result I feel like we lose a bit more of Jackie Robinson the man every year and dive further into myth and legend. It’s probably inevitable, I suppose.
The entire Marlins roster will wear the number 16 on the backs of their uniforms in remembrance of pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. After that? “No one will wear No. 16 for the Marlins again,” team owner Jeffrey Loria said on Monday evening, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reports.
Though Fernandez only pitched parts of four seasons for the Marlins, he already ranks fifth in career WAR in club history, according to Baseball Reference. He also owns the best career winning percentage as well as the second-lowest single-season ERA (2.19 in 2013) and the second-lowest single-season WHIP (0.979 in 2013). Fernandez was already one of the best pitchers in Marlins history and was on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star, if not a Hall of Famer.
Then add to that his outstanding personality and what he meant both to the Marlins organization and to the city of Miami. Loria has gotten a lot of criticism over the years, but he nailed it with this decision.
As Craig mentioned earlier, the Marlins will all wear No. 16 jerseys to honor pitcher Jose Fernandez, who tragically died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. It’s a fitting tribute as the Marlins return to the playing field after Sunday’s game was cancelled.
We don’t often hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on during these special circumstances. As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports, workers at the Majestic manufacturing facility in Easton, PA — about two hours north of Philadelphia — stayed up all night Sunday night into Monday morning in order to make those custom No. 16 jerseys for the Marlins. They were shipped via air so they would arrive in time for the game tonight.
FanGraphs writer Eric Longenhagen notes how hard those Majestic employees work — often for low pay :
Kudos to Majestic for making a concerted effort to help the Marlins out in their time of need.