CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The baseball world is recognizing the 75th anniversary of the great Jackie Robinson’s first game.
Every major and minor league player, manager and umpire, are wearing Jackie Robinson’s jersey number 42.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut, becoming the first Black player to play in the MLB.
“Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for Black and white America,” former Negro and Major League baseball player Larry LeGrande said.
He didn’t hesitate when he spoke about the late Brooklyn Dodgers great, Jackie Robinson. He says he owes him for his love of the game and his aspirations to be a part of the Negro League.
“It was the greatest league ever. We traveled by bus, we got two dollars a day for meal money. We got put out of hotels in the middle of the night,” he said.
He was a catcher who played with Satchel Paige, the greatest pitcher to ever step on the mound, let him tell it, where he averaged .300 every season. He then went on to play two seasons with the New York Yankees where he continued to average .300.
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He says he loves telling people about the league and everything that went with it, that’s why he enjoys tours for Negro League Tributes to different baseball parks like Truist Field.
This was his first time here, and it was celebrating Robinson’s 75th anniversary for breaking the color barrier.
LeGrande says he met Robinson twice, and it’s something he’ll never forget.
“I looked around on the dugout bench and there was Jackie Robinson, my manager introduced me to him, and it was the greatest handshake I ever shook,” he continued.
He says he shook his hand like he meant it.
LeGrande was one of three former Negro League baseball players honored at Truist Field for their legacy in the league. Sam Allen and Rock Hill native Wali Cathcart were the others.
They spoke to fans before the game about their time on the field and signed autographs for others. Fans also had a chance to look at old pictures, baseball gear and other items from the life of the league from a custom historical museum by Negro League Ambassador Ray Brand.
“I didn’t think that it would feel this sentimental but as I walk past these players who broke barriers, I sat there thinking to myself man they don’t make people like them anymore like they really endured so much,” said Keyona Pannell. She and her husband were in attendance for Friday’s tribute game. They’re huge Dodgers fans and Jackie Robinson is their favorite player.
Even reaching down to young future players like 9-year-old Oliver Gamble.
“It really encourages me to play baseball more,” Gamble said.
LeGrande says when he’s on the field, he wants people to see history and legacy, especially as he stands with Robinson’s daughter Sharon.
“That I played in the great negro league. The greatest league of all,” LeGrande said.