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Jackie's lasting impact not lost on Rays

Jackie's lasting impact not lost on Rays

BOSTON -- The Rays wore No. 42 in Boston on Monday in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, and they will do so again on Tuesday in Baltimore, when the Orioles' celebration takes place.

In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig,  Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.

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Jackie Robinson's significance is not something lost inside the Rays' clubhouse, starting with the team's manager, Joe Maddon.

"More and more every year, you start seeing the No. 42 popping up," Maddon said. "I'm such a Branch Rickey fan, then you start putting it all together and you read more about it, and you really understand the significance. And again, I don't even think people understand how much it plays into the Martin Luther King situation.

"The revolution that occurred at that particular moment, it mattered. I mean, [Robinson] had to happen first. This kind of set that whole thing up. When you talk about Jackie Robinson, I don't think people understand the significance and, really, the courage that went behind that."

Desmond Jennings noted that Robinson "set the table for us."

"The things that he went through, and he stuck with it and got through it," Jennings said. "I mean, it was a step to put all of us in the position we're in today. It's special. It's a big deal. It's huge for players like me."

James Loney and Jamey Wright have enjoyed the honor in the past of wearing No. 42 when the Dodgers celebrated Jackie Robinson Day, which was extra special considering that Robinson played for the Dodgers.

"To be wearing that jersey, that uniform with the Dodgers on the front and 42 on the back, it was pretty awesome," Wright said. "When you think about all he did for the game. What he did for America. It was a little different feeling wearing that jersey for the Dodgers as opposed to the Rockies' No. 42."

Loney noted that wearing No. 42 is special enough, but particularly special when the No. 42 was on a Dodgers uniform because of what he did "not just for the game of baseball, but for the whole country and the world."

Loney said that when he thinks about Robinson he thinks "about a guy who wasn't afraid."

"He wanted to play the game, no matter what," Loney said. "And he did it the right way. He played it on the field the right way. He's an inspiration."

Matt Joyce said "remarkable" is the word that comes to his mind when he thinks about Robinson.

"He's someone who really stood out and really changed the game and the way society thought about everything," Joyce said. "To go against society and what people are saying all the time, being able to take that kind of punishment and mental pounding. It's astounding what he had to go through. I can't even imagine.

"I know what we deal with on a daily basis on away games. But he had to deal with it at home. Just everywhere he went. It was on a different level. For him to do what he did and to have the kind of pressure and the kind of things people would say around him, it's nothing short of astounding."

David Price noted that Robinson displayed humility while having to control his emotions on and off the field.

"And that was very important," Price said. "Especially at that time period, to have the kind of character to be able to hold himself the way that he did, [that] was very special."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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