On April 15 of every season since 2004, Major League Baseball has honored the anniversary of Jackie Robinson‘s major league debut and breaking the color barrier in 1947.
With the 2019 season nearly two months away, MLB announced on Monday that the league will go even bigger and dedicate the entire season to Robinson, who was born on Jan. 31, 1919, in honor of his 100th birthday. The league, which made Robinson the first player to have the jersey number – 42 – retired leaguewide in 1997, have planned ceremonies and youth initiatives in support of the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s scholarship and education programs.
The centennial celebration begins on Thursday in New York City, when Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, and his daughter, Sharon, will visit three New York City public schools with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Jackie Robinson Foundation President Della Britton Baeza at the Jackie Robinson exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.
MLB will also launch a series of Play Ball events during Black History Month beginning on Feb. 7 in Kansas City at the Royals’ Urban Youth Academy, which located next to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Robinson played one season with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues before being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers on Nov. 1, 1945.
Other events during the season will include:
- The Dodgers hosting 300 children on Thursday at Dodger Stadium to celebrate Robinson’s birthday.
- UCLA will host an alumni baseball game and jazz concert. Robinson was a three-sport athlete at UCLA where he played baseball, football, and won an NCAA championship in the long jump.
- Teams will continue to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day on April 15.
- The Jackie Robinson Museum will officially open in New York City in December
Major League Baseball has attempted to bring more African-Americans back to the game in recent years through its Urban Youth Academies and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program. As of the start of last season, 8.4 percent of the league was black, which was the highest since 2012.
The league has also seen an influx of Black stars in recent years. Last year’s American League MVP, Boston’s Mookie Betts, is the first black player to win the award since Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1997.