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Jackie Robinson Day is ‘Uncle Jackie Day’ for one Dodgers employee

Sachi Hamilton, great-niece of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson, poses in front of the field at Dodger Stadium.
Sachi Hamilton, great-niece of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson, works as an usher at Dodger Stadium.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers would take the field in a few minutes, but first Jackie Robinson had a few things to say. On the giant video board above left field, Robinson came to life, in newsreels and pictures and interviews.

“I got chills,” said the usher working Section 16 on the field level.

Robinson is an almost mythical figure these days, an American hero and a baseball legend, a page of history to which the major leagues turn every April 15. The last words he spoke in the Dodgers’ video Thursday, from his speech at the 1972 World Series, remain topical and urgent today.

“I’m extremely proud and pleased to be here this afternoon,” Robinson said that day, “but must admit I am going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third-base coaching line one day and see a Black face managing in baseball.”

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Robinson died nine days later. When Jackie Robinson Day arrives next year, Robinson himself will have been gone for 50 years. There is no shortage of others to tell his story, but to see him and hear him in a major league ballpark, even on video, commands unusual attention.

Former Angels GM and self-described ‘Boys Club kid’ Tony Reagins is committed to ‘real programs with real young people that have real impact.’

The usher wore a green polo shirt, with the words “Dodgers Guest Services.” For her, the video was a family scrapbook, a chance to hear from a relative she never got to meet.

In Section 16, the usher is Jackie Robinson’s great-niece.

There is the grand legacy of Robinson, for a sport and for a country. There also is a charming family heritage at Dodger Stadium: his brother worked as an usher here, and then his niece, and now his great-niece.

“Every time I come, I clock in for work, and I see his picture all over the place,” Sachi Hamilton said. “I have to remind myself this is my legacy.

“I love coming here. It makes my day. I go home happy.”

Hamilton dropped her two kids off with her mother, Kathy Robinson Young. Hamilton went to work, and Young took the kids to meet Mookie Betts, David Price and Dave Roberts.

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Young calls the annual celebration “Uncle Jackie Day.”

He retired before she was born, and she was 14 when he passed, so her memories are off the field: visiting his home, watching him ride the giant lawnmower, scurrying inside for giant pink boxes filled with doughnuts and pastries.

“I’m here continuing the legacy. I think that’s what I was born to do. Be here.”

Sachi Hamilton, great-niece of Jackie Robinson

She was sitting in her car Thursday, in the stadium parking lot, three hours before game time.

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“Trying to calm myself down,” she said. “When I get into the stadium and see Uncle Jackie, I see me, and my family.”

Robinson staged jazz festivals in his backyard as fundraisers for civil rights groups.

He met with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., marched on Washington, participated in the Republican National Convention.

He was an independent thinker, and Young believes he would have supported commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to move the All-Star game out of Atlanta to protest a Georgia law that voting rights advocates say could suppress the votes of Black people and other minorities.

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“I would think that Uncle Jackie would be behind the expression of moving the All-Star game from Georgia,” she said.

Before Wednesday’s game, Roberts led his players to the stadium’s Robinson statue, where he talked about a legacy of equality.

“This is not political,” Roberts said. “This is about treating people the right way.”

In Section 16, Hamilton wore a button with Robinson’s No. 42 on her green polo shirt.

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“I’m honored to be a part of this family,” she said, “with what he’s done, and how we still continue to celebrate this day.”

Jackie Robinson’s role as leader in baseball and the civil rights movement served as the inspiration for a painting unveiled at the Negro Leagues Museum.

In their own way, Robinson’s family carries on a tradition of service at Dodger Stadium.

Young, her mother, worked Aisle 8 on the reserve level from 1981 to 1988.

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She was here for two World Series championships, the 1984 Olympic Games, and a woman named Bea who stood barely 4-feet tall but yelled at a decibel level that belied her stature.

Young walked up to Vin Scully one night, introduced herself as Robinson’s niece, and Scully saluted her on the air that night.

For Hamilton, treating someone as you would want to be treated runs in the family, and in Section 16.

“We can brighten someone’s day,” she said.

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Robinson retired before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Historians and fans can debate his societal legacy, but his family has put its unique stamp on Dodger Stadium, with three generations of ushers working for his team.

“I’m here continuing the legacy,” Hamilton said. “I think that’s what I was born to do. Be here.”


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