CHICAGO — Tim Anderson sported the jersey No. 42 when he took the field at shortstop for Friday night’s contest with the Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Josh Harrison had that same number on his back as he sat in the White Sox dugout, missing a second straight game with back discomfort. Everyone across baseball will be wearing that special jersey number in honor of Jackie Robinson Day and the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.
Friday’s jersey representation is quite meaningful, highlighting what Robinson did and how he handled every situation along the way to change baseball, while also changing society.
“There’s a reason that number is retired,” Harrison said. “And we go through, not just baseball, we go through life living our daily lives monotonous — waking up and going through our days and not taking a step back to realize how many people have paved the way for us to be able to do what we do. And wearing that 42, to look around tonight and everybody is wearing 42, it’s a reminder that we’re here because of what he stood for and we have to continue to carry his legacy the correct way.”
“It’s always special to be able to go out and put 42 on,” Anderson said. “It’s the guy that paved the way for a guy like me. Just what he brought to the game, he means so much to the game, he means so much to the world, he means so much to the community. This has been going on since before I was born, so it’s super special.”
The White Sox celebrated Jackie Robinson Day with special guests, including a pregame ceremony recognizing the grand prize winners of the White Sox 2022 Jackie Robinson Student contest. Owen Johnson, who is part of the 14U team in their White Sox Amateur City Elite youth baseball program, performed the national anthem on violin.
Manager Tony La Russa is a major advocate for constantly teaching baseball’s history, joking about “wanting to strangle” players when a Hall of Famer would walk into past clubhouses and go unrecognized. He mentioned a number of names in regard to groundbreaking contributions, expounding on Robinson’s impact.
“He broke the barrier when I was getting to be a player, thought about being a player in junior high school, high school,” La Russa said. “I was very aware of who he is. The more that you learn about those early days, early years with the taunts and the attempts to intimidate him, that’s tremendous courage, toughness to deal with it. He was a very intelligent man.
“This is a very appropriate day to recognize him. I also would love to see Felipe Alou get the recognition from our sport and Cooperstown, because he did the same thing in many ways for Latin American players. What these men went through, I couldn’t have had the courage and the toughness to have done what Jackie did or Felipe. I couldn’t have done it.”
Anderson and Harrison are both African-American players, but Harrison provided a great assessment of how Robinson made it possible for everyone to play together. Anderson and his wife, Bria, became deeply invested in the Chicago community through their League of Leaders Foundation, and Anderson’s constant preaching of being yourself and having fun also carries on the spirit of Robinson’s heroic achievements.
“Those kids are watching me to see how much fun I’m having,” Anderson said. “You only get one life to live, so I’m just going to keep enjoying the heck out of it and don’t let anybody take anything from you. … Hopefully we can continue to keep being positive to the community and keep allowing kids to be themselves.”
“Everybody that is represented on this field, we’re not playing together if he doesn’t take the stand that he does,” Harrison said of Robinson. “To be able to honor him every year is always something that I take pride in. A lot of people like to say just Black or African-American players, but it’s not just us that are affected. Latins are affected. Everybody from the states. None of us are playing together if it weren’t for Jackie Robinson and what he stood for.”