LOS ANGELES — With the No. 42 on their backs, the Los Angeles Dodgers have played some inspired baseball.
Saturday’s 8-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks was not a work of art, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was yet another April 15 victory. Since Jackie Robinson Day was started by Major League Baseball in 2004, the Dodgers have won 11 times on April 15. They have lost only three.
That is a .786 win percentage that should show just how proud they are as an organization to carry on the Robinson legacy.
Of course, every player on every team wears a 42 on his jersey on Jackie Robinson Day. Only this team wears “Dodgers” on the front, though.
No team in Major League Baseball has more victories than the Dodgers’ 11 on Jackie Robinson Day, although the St. Louis Cardinals do have 11, as well.
“It’s very beautiful, and it is an honor to wear that number,” Yasiel Puig said through an interpreter. “Throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of success wearing 42, so I think I’m going to have to wear a shirt underneath with No. 42 when it’s not Jackie Robinson Day.”
Puig hit a three-run home run Saturday and finished the night with three hits and four RBIs. He now has four home runs on the season and is in a logjam for third place in the National League with 10 RBIs. Corey Seager is one of eight NL players also with 10. Only Mark Reynolds of the Colorado Rockies (11) and Marcell Ozuna of the Miami Marlins (17) have more.
Puig’s memory of success on April 15, though, is up for debate. He did hit a triple on Jackie Robinson Day in 2014 but went hitless last season and did not play in 2015.
Also with a home run Saturday was Dodgers backup catcher Austin Barnes. The first long ball of his young career went off the left-field foul pole in the second inning. He said he planned to give the ball to his parents; his preference would be to keep the No. 42 jersey.
“It’s unbelievable, and the guys have been talking about it all day,” Barnes said, gesturing out to the rest of the clubhouse. “Jackie Robinson Day is a special day, and it means a lot to wear the No. 42. Obviously, it’s a special day for the Dodgers organization and a special day for baseball, as well.”
Saturday’s celebration started in grand fashion with a bronze Robinson statue unveiled outside of the gates on the third-base side of the reserved level. Baseball royalty in attendance included Sandy Koufax, Frank Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey.
Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and children Sharon and David were on hand, gathering with the entire Dodgers team on the field not long before first pitch to take a photograph.
Diamondbacks players looked on and didn’t really seem to stand a chance with such an intimidating pregame ceremony, but the visitors kept it close until the late innings.
“It’s just that much more special, being that it is the jersey [Robinson] wore with that [Dodgers] name on the front and the number” said Seager, who had two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs in the victory. “It’s really special. The Dodgers have so much history people can sometimes forget all of it, and you can’t say that about a lot of organizations. It’s definitely something we take a lot of pride in.”
Dave Roberts, the first African-American manager in franchise history, is appreciative of every moment he spends on the Dodgers’ bench. But on a day like Saturday, that feeling is only heightened.
“I think each game we focus on winning that game, but I do think with what happened today and the unveiling of the statue, you see 42 hanging all over the clubhouse, it kind of takes you back a little bit,” said Roberts, who is now 2-0 managing on Jackie Robinson Day. “I don’t know how much that plays into wins or losses, but I do know that when we put that uniform on, on Jackie Robinson Day, it’s special for all of us.”