The city of Daytona Beach, Fla. played an important role in Jackie Robinson’s journey toward breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947. On Saturday, the 70th anniversary of his big-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Daytona Beach’s present-day minor-league franchise found a unique way to recognize both his accomplishment and his ties to the city.
The Daytona Tortugas, Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, announced that their entire roster will join in baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day festivities by donning Robinson’s minor-league No. 9 during Saturday’s home game against the Fort Myers Miracle at – appropriately enough – Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
Robinson wore No. 9 during the 1946 season, when he starred for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, the Montreal Royals. The Tortugas were granted permission to wear the number by Minor League Baseball on Saturday, the first time an MiLB team has taken part in Jackie Robinson Day festivities in this way.
It was in Daytona Beach – and at the ballpark that now bears his name – where Robinson, in his first spring training with the Dodgers, donned a big-league uniform for the first time and unofficially integrated the club in an exhibition game on March 17, 1946. Daytona Beach was the only city in Florida that permitted the Dodgers to field an integrated squad that spring. The team had been stopped from using Robinson by several other municipalities who enforced segregation laws.
Minor-league clubs have honored MLB’s league-wide retirement of No. 42 since 1997, though they’re still permitted to issue No. 9.
Every major-league team is honoring Robinson on Saturday by wearing his more familiar big-league No. 42, continuing a tradition that began in 2007.