The Dodgers honored the legacy of Jackie Robinson on Saturday, debuting an eight-foot, 800-pound bronze sculpture of the Hall of Famer in a special ceremony preceding their game against the Diamondbacks. According to MLB.com’s Richard Justice, the statue was commissioned by sculptor Branly Cadet and will permanently reside in the left field plaza that serves as the most popular portal to the ballpark. Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, and children Sharon and David attended the ceremony alongside notable figures including former Dodgers Don Newcombe, Tommy Lasorda, Orel Hershiser and Sandy Koufax, former MLB manager Frank Robinson, former major league pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, former broadcaster Vin Scully, broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, Los Angeles Lakers’ owner Magic Johnson, Dodgers’ president Stan Kasten and manager Dave Roberts, among others.
It’s the first such sculpture the club has commissioned for Dodger Stadium and a fitting tribute to one of the game’s greatest players, particularly on the annual remembrance of Robinson breaking the color barrier as the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. The statue depicts Robinson sliding into home plate during his rookie season.
Cadet worked closely with Robinson’s family as he prepared the homage and consulted with Rachel Robinson in order to find the perfect image. Via Justice:
I thought it captured Jackie Robinson’s significance in American history,” Cadet said. “It takes courage and focus and timing to steal home. Similarly, those qualities were required of anyone breaking the color line. My title was ‘Stealing home and the point of no return.’
“He was a first. We wanted to represent him in an earlier part of his career when the color line was broken. Historically, that’s what was most important. The day he stepped on that baseball field was an important day, not just in baseball, but in American history. We wanted to honor that.
April 15, 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of Jackie’s historic debut in the major leagues. His contributions to the sport, as well as his work in the civil rights movement, were honored in various ways around the league on Saturday, from the customary donning of No. 42 by all major league starters to the commemorative cleats, shirts and hats players wore to the video tributes highlighting his superlative style of play in the 1940s and ’50s. More apt still were the comments that Yankees’ right-hander CC Sabathia made to Newsday’s Brian Heyman, pointing out that while Robinson paved the way for many African-American players to enter the league, the dwindling numbers of African-American players on today’s major league rosters are proof that MLB still has further to go.