LOS ANGELES — A statue of Jackie Robinson was unveiled April 15 at Dodger Stadium on the 70th anniversary of his breaking Major League Baseball’s color line.
“This statue … captures Dad’s fierce passion and determination,” Robinson’s daughter Sharon said at the ceremony, attended by Baseball Hall of Fame members Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda and Frank Robinson, retired Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully and Basketball Hall of Fame member Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a part owner of the Dodgers.
“He was a passionate man who broke barriers on and off the field,” Sharon Robinson said. “It is our hope that the statue will be a reminder to kids and adults that life is a glorious challenge filled with stolen bases and strikeouts and that it will inspire each of us to fight back against injustice, build strong communities, take risks and embrace the beautiful diversity that is this great nation.”
The statue — located in the Left Field Reserve Plaza — is the first at Dodger Stadium and depicts Robinson sliding into home plate during his rookie season in 1947, a salute to his aggressive and ambitious playing style.
The bronze statue took sculptor Branly Cadet 18 months to complete. It sits atop a granite base, which contains a biographical paragraph as well as three of Robinson’s best-known quotes. The combined statute and base stand nearly 9 feet tall.
“It was my intention to create a sculpture that captured Jackie’s courage and dynamism both on the field and — metaphorically at least — off the field,” Cadet said.
The statue fulfills the fourth of five goals of the group that purchased the Dodgers in 2012, Johnson said.
“The first thing we wanted to do was bring the fans back,” Johnson said. “The second thing was to improve the team. The third thing we wanted to do was to put sure we put money into the stadium. The next thing we wanted to do was to honor Jackie.
“We’ve got one more box to check and that is to win a World Series.”
The Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988.
In an interview following the 35-minute ceremony, Johnson said he was “more happy” about the Robinson statue than the statues of him outside Staples Center and at his alma mater, Michigan State.
Johnson said “many statues” would follow Robinson’s at Dodger Stadium, but declined to say who he felt the next one should honor.
Both Johnson, the first black to be part of a Major League Baseball team’s ownership group, and Frank Robinson, who became MLB’s first black manager in 1975, slightly more than two years after Robinson’s death in 1972, both credited Robinson for making their ground-breaking accomplishments possible.
After recounting a 1950 visit to Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel where Robinson challenged him to a race on ice skates, despite never skating before, and an early 1950s game in Cincinnati where Robinson received a death threat and outfielder Gene Hermanski suggested all the Dodgers wear Robinson’s number 42 to foil the would-be killer, Scully explained what the number that all major leaguers wore Saturday meant.
“It doesn’t mean that they’re are all equal,” said Scully, who broadcast Dodger games from 1950, Robinson’s fourth season, through last season. “Some are taller than others. Some are heavier than other. Some are left-handed. Some are right-handed.
“But the one thing they share in carrying number 42 is the fact that the man who wore it gave them the one thing that no one at the time could ever have done. He gave them equality and he gave them opportunity.
“Those were the two things that many of those people never had to hold to their hearts when they first began to play. Forty-two is a great number. It means a lot for a great man, but it is a tremendous number when you think of a man who wore it with such dignity, with such pride and with such great discipline.”