Spirited win for Dodgers
That No. 42 for the Dodgers, he was all over the field.
Seemingly channeling the spirit of Jackie Robinson on the 60th anniversary of his breaking baseball’s color barrier, the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres, 9-3, Sunday with every player on the home team wearing his number.
The Dodgers stole five bases -- their highest total in eight years -- collected 13 hits and received a strong performance from four pitchers in winning two of three in an early series against a division rival expected to remain abreast of the Dodgers into September.
“Our guys should remember it for the rest of their careers,” said center fielder Juan Pierre, one of three African American players on the Dodgers. “Standing in the outfield and seeing all the infielders with No. 42 on their backs, it was a special moment.”
A lengthy pregame ceremony was highlighted by the late Robinson’s wife, Rachel, receiving a historic achievement award from Commissioner Bud Selig. In 1973, a year after her husband died of complications from diabetes, she founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides scholarships and leadership training. Several college students who benefit from the foundation were introduced before the game.
Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson threw out simultaneous first pitches, then the Dodgers immediately started in on the Padres. Leadoff batter Rafael Furcal reached base on catcher’s interference, stole second and scored with two out on a single by Luis Gonzalez.
They scored two more runs in the second and two more in the third, stealing at will against 6-foot-10 Padres right-hander Chris Young. Furcal and Pierre each had a stolen base in the second and Russell Martin had one in the third. Jeff Kent’s stolen base in the fourth came with reliever Kevin Cameron on the mound.
Padres Manager Bud Black acknowledged that Young’s height contributes to a slow delivery, saying, “The best way he can prevent steals is to keep fast guys off the bases.”
Fast, slow and in between, Dodgers of all speeds were making frequent left turns. They hit six doubles and the previously slumping Andre Ethier provided the crowning blast with a two-run home run in the eighth, his third hit.
Martin and Wilson Valdez also each had three hits, giving the Dodgers batting sixth through eighth in the order nine hits. Benefiting from the offense was Randy Wolf (2-1), who struck out seven in six innings of his first start at Dodger Stadium as a Dodger.
His first two starts at Chavez Ravine came in high school, when he won City Section championship games for Woodland Hills El Camino Real in 1993 and 1994.
“This was something to remember, just like those games,” he said. “I had lots of friends and family here and we were wearing a sacred number on our backs.”
During batting practice, clubhouse attendants hung the No. 42 jerseys neatly in every locker. When it was time to put them on, African American utility player Marlon Anderson treated his jersey as if it were a precious family heirloom. He put it on slowly, meticulously tucking it in before zipping his pants.
It was a moment to be savored. And there won’t be a problem if Anderson ever wants to revisit it -- a crew from Major League Baseball filmed him getting dressed.
Anderson broke into a grin and yelled to clubhouse manager Mitch Poole, “What do you think?”
“Sweet, dude,” came the reply.
Maybe they were pressing because of the occasion. Maybe it was just the vagaries of baseball. But the three African American players in the game -- Pierre, Mike Cameron and Anderson -- had dismal performances, going a combined 0 for 10. Pierre and Cameron misplayed balls in the outfield as well.
“It was the worst I’ve ever played,” Pierre said. “But I don’t think wearing the number had anything to do with it. I’ve played in the World Series, and outside of that, this was the most emotion I’ve seen in a game.”
The No. 42 wasn’t anything special to Robinson at the beginning of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The clubhouse manager handed him the jersey when Robinson’s contract was purchased from the triple-A team in Montreal in April 1947. The number hadn’t been worn by a Dodger in eight years. Simply, it was available.
His accomplishments transformed No. 42 into a symbol so powerful that numerous major leaguers felt honored to wear it and a sellout crowd of 55,298 shared in the celebration.
“I was honored not only to wear No. 42, but No. 42 with the Dodgers,” Anderson said. “To be on the same field with Rachel Robinson and so many Hall of Famers, I felt blessed.”
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