Jackie Robinson Museum opens after 14 years of planning

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NEW YORK — Long dreamed about and in development for longer than the big league career of the man it honors, the Jackie Robinson Museum opened Tuesday in Manhattan with a gala ceremony attended by the 100-year-old wife of the barrier-breaking ballplayer and two of his children.

Rachel Robinson, who turned 100 on July 19, watched the half-hour outdoor celebration from a wheelchair in the 80-degree heat, then cut a ribbon to cap a project launched in 2008.

Her 72-year-old daughter, Sharon, also looked on from a wheelchair and 70-year-old son David spoke to the crowd of about 200 sitting on folding chairs arrayed in a closed-off section of Varick Street, a major New York thoroughfare where the 19,380-square-foot museum is located.

“The issues in baseball, the issues that Jackie Robinson challenged in 1947, they’re still with us,” David Robinson said. “The signs of white only have been taken down, but the complexity of equal opportunity still exists.”

Rachel Robinson announced the museum on April 15, 2008, the 61st anniversary of Jackie breaking the big league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Robinson became NL Rookie of the Year, the 1949 NL batting champion and MVP, a seven-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1955. He hit .313 with 141 homers and 200 stolen bases in 11 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Robinson, who died in 1972, had an impact beyond baseball, galvanizing a significant slice of American public opinion and boosting the civil rights movement.

“There’s nowhere on the globe where dream is attached to our name – or our country’s name,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. “There’s not a German dream. There’s not a French dream. There’s not a Polish dream. Darn it, there’s an American dream. And this man and wife took that dream and forced America and baseball to say you’re not going to be a dream on a piece of paper, you’re going to be a dream in life. We are greater because of No. 42 and because he had amazing wife that understood that dream and vision.”

A gala dinner was held Monday night to preview the museum, which contains 350 artifacts, including playing equipment and items such as Robinson’s 1946 minor league contract for $600 a month and his 1947 rookie contract for a $5,000 salary. The museum also holds a collection of 40,000 images and 450 hours of footage.

A 15-piece band played at the ceremony, attended by former pitcher CC Sabathia, former NL president Len Coleman and former Mets owner Fred Wilpon along with players’ association head Tony Clark and Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch.

“Without him, there would be no me,” Sabathia said. “I wouldn’t have been able to live out my dream of playing Major League Baseball.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, director Spike Lee (wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap) and former tennis star Billie Jean King also were on hand.

“It seems like we’re more divided than ever,” King said. “People like Jackie Robinson was a great reminder every single morning, every single evening that we have to do the right thing every day.”

Original projections had a 2010 opening and $25 million cost. The Great Recession caused a delay.

Ground finally was broken on April 27, 2017, when the Jackie Robinson Foundation said it had raised $23.5 million of a planned $42 million and the museum was intended to open in 2019. The pandemic caused more delays, and the total raised has risen to $38 million, of which $2.6 million was contributed by New York City.

Tickets will cost $18 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and children when the museum opens to the public on Sept. 5. The second floor includes an education center, part of a plan envisioned by Rachel Robinson.

“She wanted a fixed tribute to her husband, where people could come and learn about him, but also be inspired,” said foundation president Della Britton, who headed the project. “We want to be that place, as young people now say, a safe space, where people will talk about race and not worry about the initial backlash that happens when you say something on social media.”

David Robinson said his father would have been proud.

“He was a man who used the word `we,”‘ David said. “I think today Jackie Robinson would say I accept this honor, but I accept this honor on behalf of something far beyond my individual self, far beyond my family, far beyond even my race. Jackie Robinson would say don’t think of you standing on my shoulders, I think of myself as standing on the shoulders of my mother, who was a sharecropper in Georgia, my grandmother, who was born a slave.”

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.