JRF Founder Rachel Robinson, Foundation Board Vice-chair Sharon Robinson and JRF President and CEO Della Britton Baeza were on hand at Yankee Stadium Sunday, September 22nd to pay tribute to the last Major League ball player to wear the number 42 – Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. But it was Rivera who began his special day by paying tribute to the Foundation’s iconic namesake, Jackie Robinson.
“I would’ve loved to have met Mr. Jackie Robinson,” Rivera told the wife of the great ball player and civil rights icon, “but it’s a great pleasure and an honor to be the last MLB player to ever wear No. 42. Even though I never met him, he has been a hero and inspiration for me. And I thank Mr. Jackie Robinson for that.”
Rivera, his family and members of the Yankees front office, including the Steinbrenner Family, owners of the ball club, stood nearby as Rachel Robinson unveiled a plaque dedicated to her husband. It is the only plaque displayed in Monument Park of a player who has never been a Yankee.
Moments later, Rivera's wife Clara and their three sons, Mariano Jr., Jafet and Jazeil watched as the famed closer uncovered his number to be on display alongside 15 other retired Yankees numbers, honoring players and managers.
Rivera, a son of a Panamanian fisherman, made his big league debut in 1995. He had 652 career saves including 42 post season saves - the most in baseball’s history.
During his final season, Rivera was presented gifts of appreciation at every stadium the Yankees visited. In early August, the Chicago White Sox made a donation in Rivera's name to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Pictured above: Sharon and Rachel Robinson (left) with celebrated Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (right) at the unveiling of the Jackie Robinson plaque at Yankees' Monument Park