A Day for Robinson at Dodger Stadium

The Los Angeles Dodgers have officially declared Sunday, April 15, 2007 Jackie Robinson Day. Dodgers' owner, Frank McCourt, discusses plans to celebrate Robinson's legacy with Farai Chideya.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And this Sunday, Jackie Robinson's beloved team, now the Los Angles Dodgers, will commemorate his legacy. Robinson's widow, Rachel, will join surviving teammates, as well as baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, for a ceremony before the Dodgers take on the San Diego Padres. Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt describes what Sunday's festivities mean to him.

Mr. FRANK MCCOURT (Owner, Los Angeles Dodgers): A celebration of all that's great in America. I think it's a day where I hope the entire very, very diverse population of Los Angeles is represented at the stadium, you know, their home away from home. And we're celebrating with almost like an all-star game atmosphere. The contributions that Jackie Robinson made not only to the game of baseball but to society.

CHIDEYA: You're also going to have Jackie Robinson's widow there, is that correct?

Mr. MCCOURT: Yeah, Rachel will be with us, as she has done several times in the past; and just a great lady and a privilege to get to know her, and her daughter Sharon and other members of the extended Robinson family, to Dodgers' stadium on Sunday.

CHIDEYA: Not everybody gets to own a team of any sort, let alone the Los Angeles Dodgers. When did you first become a fan of the game long before you became an owner? And how did Jackie Robinson come in to your life as a figure?

Mr. MCCOURT: Yeah, let me start by saying that I really don't own the Los Angeles Dodgers. I consider myself a steward of the franchise. Baseball teams are really owned by the community and the fan base, and so forth.

With that said, I've been a baseball fan and lover of the game since, really, as long as I can remember. I think it had to do little bit with the fact that my grandfather was an owner of the Boston Braves at the same time that Jackie Robinson broke into this big leagues.

I became a huge participant in the game and, as the years went by, oh, I can't tell you how many great memories I have with my wife and our - four boys going to the ballpark and enjoying ourselves. And I think that's the great thing about baseball is it's very much a precious time you get to spend, you know, rooting for a team, of course, but also precious time to get to spend with families and with friends.

CHIDEYA: If you're a science fiction or fantasy fan, there is one meaning to the number 42. It is the answer to the ultimate question of life, which, of course, nobody actually knows the question. But if you're a baseball fan, 42 has a different meaning. Tell us how you're incorporating the number into some of the pageantry on Sunday.

Mr. MCCOURT: Well, 42 is - Jackie's number was retired 10 years ago by baseball. And on Sunday, to pay tribute to Jackie, all of our players have agreed to wear number 42, which I think is a great, great statement and a great tribute to Jackie's legacy.

We've also collaborated with the Jackie Robinson Foundation on a program we called the Team 42 Scholarship Program, where the Dodgers and my wife and I provide a financial resources to provide 42 college scholarships per year to individuals that might not otherwise be able to attend college, and we do that in partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Of course, their success rate identifying great young men and women and supporting them so that they graduate from college is phenomenal, to the high 90 percentile. So that's a partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation where we bring the number 42 to life.

CHIDEYA: Well, Frank, it sounds like great work now. And certainly on Sunday things will be a popping. Thanks a lot.

Mr. MCCOURT: Yeah, it's going to be a great day at Dodger Stadium and I enjoyed spending some time with you.

CHIDEYA: Again, that was Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This Sunday, the team and fans celebrate the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

(Soundbite of song "Brown Eyed Handsome Man")

Mr. CHUCK BERRY (Musician): (Singing) Oh, arrested on charges of unemployment, he was sitting in the witness stand…

CHIDEYA: Visit us at npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. On Monday, a new TV frontier: "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

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