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Denzel Washington made a surprise appearance at the MLB All-Stars game on Tuesday, paying tribute to Jackie Robinson. The Academy Award winner wore a Dodgers team shirt with Robinson’s iconic #42 on the back. 

The event took place on the 100th birthday of Robinson’s widow, Rachel. It also marked the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in professional baseball. 

The crowd was shocked and awed by Washington’s homage to Robinson, a man Denzel Washington noted had “supreme talent and unshakable character.” Robinson played professional baseball for 10 years, winning accolades on and off the field.

Prior to Robinson’s debut on first base, Black men were not permitted to play professional baseball. They were only allowed to participate in “Negro baseball leagues.”

But when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson changed that. With his immense talent, Robinson was a six-time All-Star who won the MLB’s Most Valuable Award in 1949.

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Denzel Washington pays tribute to Jackie Robinson

According to Washington,??“He changed the game of baseball and so much more. What he carried with him, what he represented, was towering.”

As Washington noted, Robinson was known for more than just professional baseball prowess. He, along with his wife Rachel, were also civil rights activists – who promoted nonviolence for social change. 

After his baseball career, Robinson broke even more barriers by becoming the MLB’s first Black baseball commentator. He also helped establish the first African-American led financial institution, Freedom National Bank in Harlem. 

However, Jackie Robinson was so important to professional baseball that his number was retired across all MLB teams in 1997. April 15th of each year is Jackie Robinson day, during which every player on every team wears #42. 

Meanwhile, Washington took the time to remark on a host of Robinson’s accolades, both on and off the field. “Beyond the field, Jackie Robinson challenged us to become better versions of ourselves: business leader, family man, activist, Hall of Famer.”

Denzel Washington concluded his remarks by summing up Robinson’s career and personal bests for the All-Star audience. Many on social media noted that the speech gave them chills and provided inspiration. 

“[Jackie Robinson] said that life is not a spectator sport, and he lived that motto to the fullest. Whether it was charging down the baselines or standing tall for opportunity and justice, number 42 blazed a trail that would light the way for people of every walk of life and every color.

“And to this very day — every generation — that inspiration, that profound impact looms just as large today as it did 75 years ago.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...