this week, the Oakland A’s will join the rest of Major League Baseball in
paying tribute to one of America’s great civil rights pioneers.  On April 15, every team in baseball will
by wearing his familiar No. 42
on their game jerseys.  Here in Oakland, the A’s will
welcome nearly 500 Bay Area elementary and middle school students, teachers and
parents as their guests at the game for their recent participation in the
Jackie Robinson “Breaking Barriers Essay Contest,” which was co-sponsored by
Major League Baseball.  Through this
essay contest, it is our hope that these youngsters will learn why Jackie is
such an important figure in our country’s history and also that they, too, can
overcome barriers. 

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Jackie became the first African American to break the color barrier in baseball
in 1947, consider this
:  Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 18 years old at the time, almost ten years before he would lead the
Montgomery Bus Boycott, and 16 years
before he would deliver his famous “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on
Washington in 1963.  Without question,
Dr. King met tremendous resistance during his fight for civil rights.  But can you imagine the climate in this
country when Jackie Robinson first suited up as a Brooklyn Dodger? 

By Commissioner Selig mandating that every club retire Jackie’s number
back in 1997, it absolutely sent the right message to everyone involved in the
game.  Jackie’s story needed to be heard
then and it continues to be as pertinent today as it was more than a half
century ago.  It heartens us to see youngsters
like eighth grader
Rosario Abonce of Rancho Medanos
Junior High School in Pittsburg
and fourth grader
Monica Martinez of Tara Hills Elementary School in San Pablo write in their essays about how his
courage and determination inspired them as well.

also inspired other minority ball players that would follow him, including the
many African American and Latin superstars of the 1960’s–
Willie Mays, Hank
Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson
, among others–who rewrote the baseball history books
with their marvelous skills and accomplishments.  Sports have always served as an agent for
social change, as performance has no color. 
The diversity of athletes, whether it is race, religion, national origin
or economic status, has served this country well in teaching tolerance,
understanding and teamwork. 

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Robinson led the way in professional sports. 
So, when you think of our team’s rich heritage here in Oakland, also remember that Jackie made it
possible for the likes of
Blue Moon, Vida, Reggie, Rickey and Stew and many
other great players of color to enjoy remarkable careers with the Athletics through
years.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to
No. 42.

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