What Is Jackie Robinson Day? Everything You Need to Know as MLB Remembers First African American Player

The MLB season may be postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus outbreak, but not even a global pandemic will prevent the league from celebrating Jackie Robinson Day.

On Opening Day of the 1947 season—which fell on April 15—Robinson ended almost eight decades of racial segregation in baseball and tore down one of the most significant social barriers in American sports.

He made his MLB debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers (which have since relocated to Los Angeles) in front of over 26,000 fans at Ebbets Field, New York, becoming the first African American player to feature in the majors.

In 1997, then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired his No. 42 throughout the majors and five years later the MLB introduced a Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, to commemorate the Georgia native's majors debut. Since 2009, players, coaches and managers of all 30 MLB teams have worn Robinson's No. 42 jersey on April 15, as one of baseball's most important figures is honored in ballparks across the U.S.

However, with the baseball season currently postponed due to social distancing measures in place, this year's celebrations will have a distinctly different approach. The Jackie Robinson Foundation has launched a virtual hub to coincide with the 73rd anniversary, which will feature a number of former major league players—including three-time Gold Glove Award winner Harold Reynolds and six-time All-Star CC Sabathia—reading excerpts from a book written by Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson.

MLB Network will also participate in the celebrations, airing Robinson-related programs from 8:30 a.m. ET until 7 p.m. ET, including three of the greatest games played on Jackie Robinson Day.

The first of the three games airs at 9 a.m. ET and features eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano,' who takes his first name from Robinson, smashing two home runs as the New York Yankees hosted the Los Angeles Angels in 2010. At 12 p.m. ET, fans will have the chance to rewatch the Pittsburgh Pirates' thrilling comeback in Chicago against the Cubs in 2017, the day which marked the 70th anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut.

The third game begins at 3 p.m. ET and features the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Diego Padres in 2012 in a matchup made famous by Matt Kemp hitting three home runs. A special episode of MLB Tonight focusing on Robinson airs at 6 p.m., followed by Ken Burns' two-part documentary from 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, a film on the 1955 World Series—the Dodgers' only title during their spell in Brooklyn—will be streamed live on the MLB's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels—both in English and Spanish—from 7 p.m. ET.

Robinson was named Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was a six-time All-Star during 10 seasons in the MLB, winning the World Series Title in 1955 as the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees 4-3.

Having become the first African-American player in the MLB, Robinson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962 and became the first black television analyst in MLB history in 1965, when he worked on ABC's Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts.

Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson (left) and Billy Cox, of the Brooklyn Dodgers, are shown shaking hands in the Dodger Clubhouse in March 1953. Bettmann/Getty