On April 15, 76 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he made his major league debut with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers.
10 years ago on the same day, two terrorists detonated bombs by the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street, killing three and injuring hundreds.
The two watershed moments will shape Saturday’s game from start to finish. A special pre-game ceremony will commemorate both anniversaries, and special guests will be in attendance throughout the weekend and Marathon Monday’s 11:10 a.m. game.
During batting practice, members of the Red Sox and Angels wore special ‘Breaking Barriers’ t-shirts. For the game itself, all players and on-field personnel around the league will don No. 42 jerseys. Robinson’s number was officially retired in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his barrier-breaking debut.
For Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the day carries special meaning because of the time he spent with Robinson’s family during his years playing on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“(His daughter) Sharon was around, (wife) Rachel was around,” the former infielder recalled. “This is a day that, not only for minorities, which I think is making it more special. Everybody’s involved in this now, you know? And the fact that everybody’s wearing 42, I think when it started, not everybody did, right? It was if you wanted to. There were probably a handful of us, that we did, and now everybody’s wearing it.”
At the time of the league-wide retirement, players who were already wearing Robinson’s number were allowed to continue doing so until they retired; by Mariano Rivera’s final season in 2013, he was the last man standing. 2023 is the fifteenth consecutive year that the entire league is wearing No. 42, with the jerseys being auctioned off later, to benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“It’s a special day,” Cora said with a smile. “Hopefully, today we can represent him on the field the right way, right? Hit a ground ball, bust your ass to first, and play the game right.”
Asked if he’d like to see the league give the same treatment to Roberto Clemente’s No. 21, Cora admitted that he’s “asked about that” in the past. He explained the response he received, and added a diplomatic message of his own.
“The answer is like, one of the most prestigious awards in baseball is the Roberto Clemente Award, and that’s how we are, you know, keeping his legacy. As you guys know, for me, it’s not about wearing No. 21, it’s what we do in Puerto Rico,” the Caguas, PR native said. “But if it happens, it’ll be great.”
Masataka Yoshida isn’t in Saturday’s lineup, but will be back on Sunday as the designated hitter, Cora said. Yoshida has sat for the last few days due to a hamstring ailment, but will be back in the outfield on Monday.
“We just want to make sure that this is not something that, we play him and then he feels it again and then we lose him for a while,” the manager explained.
Given how many injuries the team sustained last season, better safe than sorry.
Zack Kelly’s MRI came back clean for elbow ligament damage, but says the results are incongruent with the pain he continues to experience. The Red Sox are going to get a second opinion from the doctor who performed his ligament reattachment surgery in 2020, and “go from there,” Cora said.
James Paxton looked impressive in his latest rehab start for Triple-A on Friday, but he’s not all the way back yet.
“Besides the velocity, I think, mechanics-wise, the best he’s felt throughout the process. I think that’s the last hurdle, right? How you feel on the mound, how you move, and he felt good,” Cora explained on Saturday morning.
“Obviously, let’s see how he feels today and tomorrow, and then we’ll decide what’s next for him, but he was very pleased with it all, and not only because of the velocity, but the stuff. I think the breaking ball is not there yet, from what he said,” the manager noted.
Asked if Paxton will need one more rehab start, Cora responded, “Or two.”