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Milton Bradley

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MB the Writer [Apr. 15th, 2005|09:02 am]
Milton Bradley
Remembering Jackie Robinson

L.A. outfielder Milton Bradley still in awe of racial pioneer

By Milton Bradley, Special to the Daily News

Today is a special day for me. Not so much because it's my birthday, which it is, but because it also happens to be Jackie Robinson Day in Los Angeles. It was declared so by Mayor James Hahn to commemorate the fact that 58 years ago today, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball.

The uniform Jackie put on that day, and for the rest of his major league career, was a Dodger uniform. I'm proud to wear the same uniform today. Although mine says Los Angeles and Jackie's said Brooklyn, the franchise is still the same, still playing great baseball and drawing millions of fans.

Just like Jackie, I grew up in Los Angeles, and since I was always a huge Dodger fan, I can't remember a time that I wasn't aware of who he was and what he meant to both black people and baseball.

I remember being impressed by the stories of the terrible abuse he had to put up with his rookie year, like death threats and name-calling. I can definitely empathize with him, because I have gone through some similar experiences.

But with Jackie, they definitely picked the right guy to break the color barrier. Although he had a lot to deal with as a young player, he always handled himself well. He braved the threats and ignored the taunts. He just got down to business and played baseball like the true major leaguer he was, always conducting himself with courage and dignity. I really admired him.

Also like Jackie, I played in Montreal before coming to the Dodgers. When I broke into the majors with the Expos, I wanted to wear number 42 just like he did. Of course, I couldn't, since baseball had already retired his number, so I reversed the digits and started wearing number 24.

When I got to Los Angeles last year, I found out that 24 was Walter Alston's old number and had been retired by the Dodgers, so I decided to wear number 21, which is half of 42. I thought to myself that if I could be half the player -- and half the man -- that Jackie was, then that would be real success, both personally and professionally.

Tonight, we're honoring Jackie and his widow, Rachel, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation with a Jackie Robinson Night at Dodger Stadium.

There are a lot of things that make me proud to wear a Dodger uniform, but the single most important one is that it's the uniform that Jackie wore. His accomplishment in breaking the major-league color barrier was a turning point for baseball and for America.

I am proud just to be a small part of his huge legacy.