New Tigers Dontrelle Willis and Jacque Jones are expected to join Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames, Gary Sheffield and Ivan Rodriguez in donning the jersey number for a day when the Tigers host the Twins at Comerica Park. Granderson, Thames, Sheffield and Rodriguez all did the same last year, when they were in Toronto for the occasion.
Willis, who wears No. 21 for Detroit, wore 42 for a day while with the Marlins last year with the organization's encouragement. He, along with Granderson and others around the league, has long pushed to increase awareness of the game among African-American children. Having a sense of history and the sacrifices that Robinson made to break baseball's color barrier go with that.
"I feel honored," Willis said. "I feel proud. It's more than just a number. It stands for a lot of things. He opened doors and ultimately changed the face of this game. That's a lot of history -- American history, not just African-American history."
Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, was a last-minute addition to those wearing the number last year, because he wanted to honor Robinson as someone who opened up the sport for many around the world.
"It's a day to celebrate the man," Rodriguez said.
Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of the late Dodgers great and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first big league game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.
Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by his wife, Rachel Robinson, in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources, as well as Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history -- in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less