Jeter, Cano, Rivera Spark Yankees Win: Why Jackie Robinson Is Smiling in Heaven

Stephen MeyerDeputy MLB EditorApril 16, 2009

April 15 represents a moment in American history that is equally as significant as any ingredient of the Civil Rights Movement. On that special day in 1947, Jackie Robinson tore down the walls that once impeded his race’s inclusion into America’s Pastime.


Robinson proudly donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and jogged onto a Major League Baseball diamond with motives far greater and more powerful than winning a pennant. He forced America to watch as a black man proved that he was not only an equal to his white colleagues, but far superior in many ways.


Robinson's No. 42 has become as much a symbol for civil rights in the United States as the commanding images of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.


In his honor, Major League Baseball has permanently declared Apr. 15 as "Jackie Robinson Day." Stadiums across the country have quickly become a sea of No. 42s and are filled with appreciation and gratitude for the tireless fight of one brave man.


One game played across the Major League landscape on Wednesday truly encompassed what “Jackie Robinson Day” is all about. The game involved the New York Yankees, whose city was Robinson’s battlefield for 10 years.


There may not have been a steal of home like Robinson had effortlessly done so many times before, but he was certainly watching and smiling from where we all hope to end up one day.


The heroes of a prototypical Yankees comeback were the only three players who could possibly have been involved on this day.


On Apr. 15, it had to be Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Mariano Rivera.


Cano made the first contribution with a blast to center field, which tied the game after Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte surrendered two runs in the top half of the inning.


As momentum began to slip away, he made sure that he created a strong impact.


Cano is not only a proud black baseball player, but he has a special bond with Jackie Robinson. Cano’s father named his son after Jackie Robinson, never knowing he would help to follow in Jackie’s bottomless legacy.


It cannot simply be coincidental that a man named Robinson was thrust into the center of an Apr. 15 victory. Furthermore, Cano also plays Robinson’s position at second base—as if part of the color-barrier pioneer has lived on through a dyslexic version of himself (Cano, of course, wears No. 24).


The game's go-ahead run was driven in off the bat of Derek Jeter, and as the son of a black father, Jeter is very proud of his heritage.


Who better to represent Robinson’s legacy than someone with the kind of class and dignity displayed by the Yankees captain?


Jeter’s hard-hit single through the left side of the infield in the top of the ninth gave New York a 4-3 lead and set the stage for the ideal ending to "Jackie Robinson Day."


As if stolen from the final pages of an inspirational children’s book, Rivera approached the mound to secure the game’s final outs. Rivera is the only player in Major League Baseball who did not require a custom-made Jackie Robinson commemorative jersey.


He has proudly worn No. 42 for his entire career and remains the only current player still privileged to do so, since he donned the number before it was retired by all of baseball.


The game was over in just eight pitches as Rivera closed the book on a perfect tribute to the game’s most courageous performer.


Somewhere in God’s vast kingdom, Robinson was on a pristine baseball diamond playing the game that he helped to build. At some point during the game, he briefly stopped to smile and acknowledge the immeasurable respect and admiration the country will forever have for him.


He couldn’t stop for long, though...after all, the pitcher hasn’t looked him back all day, and home plate is his if he wants it.



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