MLB donates $40,000 toward restoring vandalized Jackie Robinson memorial

Robinson's memorial marker in southern Georgia was shot repeatedly by vandals in early 2021.

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Major League Baseball has stepped in to replace a plaque honoring one of the sport’s greatest trailblazers, the late Jackie Robinson after his memorial marker in southern Georgia was shot repeatedly by vandals in early 2021.

First reported by The New York Times, the MLB contributed $40,000 toward restoring the marker which stands near Robinson’s birthplace in the rural city of Cairo, Georgia. The league additionally funded a new, higher visibility marker outside the Roddenbery Memorial Library.

“We want to make sure it’s something that stands forever,” said April Brown, vice president of social responsibility for the MLB.

“Sometimes people do look at things as, ‘Oh, it’s just a physical signage,’” she added. “But what it represents is how we can empower the community and audiences around social justice, and to empower and lift up those who fought for rights for all.”

Jackie Robinson thegrio.com
American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 – 1972) grounds a ball at first place while warming up for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Ebbets Field, NYC, 1950s. (Photo by Hulton|Archive/Getty Images)

Brown said further work is necessary nationwide to address ongoing resentment toward Robinson’s mission and legacy, calling the defacing of his memorial “incredibly heartbreaking.” 

“It’s still an indication of how much further our country needs to go,” Brown said. “It’s very unfortunate that whoever the individual or individuals were, they felt they needed to take it out on something that’s so iconic and for a man who left such a legacy in baseball and in America.”

WXGA News reported the discovery of Robinson’s defaced memorial in Feb. 2021, around the same time that vandalism was enacted upon other memorials lining Georgia’s Civil Rights Trail, including a plaque dedicated to Mary Turner, who was lynched in 1918 while pregnant.

“This should not be happening,” said Robinson’s cousin Dr. Linda Walden. “Why do something like that? It just doesn’t make sense. It’s really sad in this year and time. Look, our people came here in 1619 and we have endured so much, our ancestors, and to come to now, 2022, and you still have a mess like this going on? It’s sad. It’s very sad, but I pray for these people.”

Walden said that a significant aspect of the memorial’s importance is to represent pride in coming from a small, rural community and going on to do great things.

MLB thegrio.com
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

“This community has produced great people. Jackie was one of them. Don’t be ashamed of where you come from because so many young people, they live in small towns,” Walden said, per WALB News. “People ask where are you from and they say Albany or Atlanta, no you’re from Cairo, Georgia.” 

“I felt it was necessary that these young people need to know that great people come from little rural areas of Georgia, like Jackie Robinson,” she added. “And I wanted them to be proud of where they come from. And I want them to emulate him and carry on to be leaders and people of greatness.”

Robinson is best known for breaking the MLB’s color barrier in 1947, debuting that year on Apr. 15 as the first Black baseball player to play in a major league game.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
(Credit: Getty Images)

Robinson’s legacy reaches far beyond the baseball diamond, however — in 1957, he joined the Civil Rights Movement and helped fundraise for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the MLB reported

The league has made a concerted effort in recent years to increase its Black player representation amid a decline across the sport’s major leagues since peaking at 19% in the early 1980s. It has since declined to roughly 8% in 2021, according to the New York Times

In 2021, the MLB announced its investment of up to $150 million over the next decade into The Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization comprised of over 100 Black current and former major league players committed to improving equity in professional baseball.

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