Tigers honored to wear No. 42, eager to see film

Tigers honored to wear No. 42, eager to see film

SEATTLE -- Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson have all worn No. 42 during Jackie Robinson Day celebrations for several years now, just as they did on Tuesday at Safeco Field. None of them have had a chance yet to see the movie '42.' All of them are hoping to soon.

They also hope it brings home the message of what Robinson had to endure to break baseball's color barrier in 1947. They've heard and read the stories over the years of what Robinson had to hear from the stands, what opposing players and managers alike would say to him.

They don't know if they could've handled it the same way.

"I'm not worthy to wear that number," Hunter said. "For everything he went through during that time, the racial slurs, the death threats and all those things, I don't think I could've been strong enough to go through that. So, am I worthy to wear that number? I don't think so, but I'm honored. He didn't quit. He stayed strong and he changed mindsets, not just in baseball but in America."

The on-field abuse was one thing. What amazes Fielder is what Robinson had to endure in everyday life, both directed at himself and his family.

"What he went through, moreso off the field than on the field, to me that's very special, to have to deal with some of the things," Fielder said. "Because usually when you're playing baseball, fans heckle you, and you can deal with that. But once it starts carrying over to normal life and you're just trying to be a human being and people are trying to be hurtful, it takes a real big man to do what he did and not choke somebody.

"That's not easy to do. It takes a special, special guy to be able to go through all that and be special at baseball."

They all get it, and they all are looking forward to seeing the movie. Hunter said his two sons have already given him glowing reviews of it.

"My boys went to see it already and they loved it," Hunter said. "They saw it in Texas."

The Tigers will remember Jackie Robinson at Comerica Park once they return to Detroit next week. The team holds an annual essay contest to give Detroit-area schoolchildren a chance to put into words what Robinson's legacy means to them. Jackson has taken part in the ceremonies honoring winners for three years now. He gets the sense of appreciation each time.

"I think every time you get a chance to put a jersey on with that number, it's an honor," Jackson said. "It's the same every time. You get that appreciation again, really, for what he did."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.