Results tagged ‘ Jackie Robinson ’

#NatsWeekOfThanks: DCPS

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'42' ScreeningThe Washington Nationals are grateful to work with partners that are seeking new ways to make a positive impact on youth in our communities. Our  friends at DC Public Schools (DCPS) are dedicated to furthering the education of area students – both in and out of the classroom.

Last May, Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals hosted two private screenings of the movie “42” for 400 D.C. Public School students. Recognizing the social value of educating future generations about Jackie Robinson’s impact beyond the baseball diamond, DCPS jumped at the unique opportunity.

The high school students were able to view the movie free of charge and share their experiences online via In addition, a panel discussion with Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, Mike Rizzo, centerfielder Denard Span and First Base Coach Tony Tarasco followed each screening, where students asked questions about the challenges of being a professional athlete, the impact of Jackie Robinson, and battling racial prejudice, both on and off the field.

We are thanking DCPS as part of our Week of Thanks. For more on #NatsWeekOfThanks, click here.

For more information on DC Public Schools, please visit and follow them on Twitter at @dcpublicschools.

The Dream at 50

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Sports bring people together in a way nothing else can, as evidenced by one of baseball’s proudest moments when Jackie Robinson made his debut in 1947, breaking the color barrier.

However, many people may not realize that this momentous occasion occurred seven years before the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision and 16 years before Martin Luther King Jr.’s Great March on Washington, which took place on August 28, 1963.

Fifty years ago today, King delivered his most seminal speech, proclaiming his dream; a message that resonated through the National Mall to the quarter million people in attendance. And while the process of realizing that dream endures, great strides have been made in the last half century. This is especially true in sports, where players of all races and ethnicities stand as teammates and competitors, side-by-side.

Sports can often serve as a catalyst for social change, and baseball is proud to have such a great leader as Robinson as a role model for equality in our game. In his spirit the Washington Nationals are dedicated to continuing to make a positive social impact here in D.C. As part of this commitment, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation invests money and resources to our local community, and will open the doors to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Ward 7 this fall.

Major League Baseball also carries on the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement through programs such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities. Likewise, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s mandate to encourage minority hiring for the top positions in the game was the first of its kind in professional sports in 1999, predating the NFL’s Rooney Rule by several years.

So as we pay tribute today to Dr. King and his dream of equality, let us also celebrate the role baseball has played toward equal civil rights in America.

A Piece of Living History

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There are few living legends in the game whose presence looms as large as Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. The now 85-year-old has been the voice of the Dodgers for 64 years, dating back to their days in Brooklyn. He is a walking encyclopedia of baseball and cultural knowledge and always makes for a tremendously entertaining interview.

Scully sat down with Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes prior to Tuesday night’s game in Los Angeles. He told stories of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, his start in broadcasting in Washington D.C., and discussed Bryce Harper’s collision Monday night.

“The only good thing about it is it knocked his beard off,” Scully mused, as Harper had to shave in order to receive his stitches.

Scully went to the clubhouse before the game Tuesday to see Harper, who seemed caught off guard to see him in Davey Johnson’s office. As Harper shook Scully’s and offered a customary pleasantry, Scully retorted with, “Well, how are you young man?” in reference to the play the night before. The two went on to chat for several minutes as Johnson made his away around the clubhouse.

“He’s such a fine young man and an outstanding player,” said Scully of Harper. “It’s none of my business, but I hope he stays clean shaven.”

Listen to the full interview below. The Nationals wrap their three-game set in Los Angeles tonight.

Remembering Jackie

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After seeing the film “42,” Commissioner Bud Selig felt that it was very important for everyone, especially young people, to see the movie. So over the past few weeks, Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs teamed up to offer high school students a private screening and panel discussion with members of the baseball community about the impact of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on American history.

Last Friday, nearly 400 D.C. public high school students were treated to a special showing, followed by an open question and answer session with Nationals broadcaster Dave Jageler, EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, center fielder Denard Span, first base coach Tony Tarasco and Kendra Gaither from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Given the ability to ask nearly anything and everything, the students asked questions about the challenges of being a professional athlete, the impact of Jackie Robinson, and battling racial prejudice, both on and off the field.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

From left to right: Jageler, Rizzo, Gaither, Span and Tarasco speak to D.C. public school students.

In one of the best questions of the day, Rizzo was asked if he thought he could have made a move as bold as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s in signing Robinson as the first African American player in the Major League Baseball.

“It’s difficult to put yourself in his shoes,” Rizzo admitted. “Not only was that a baseball decision, it was a social decision that sent ripples throughout the world.”

All the panel participants stressed the importance of remembering just how big of a story Robinson’s ascent to the Major Leagues was, and how his influence extended far beyond the playing field. After all, he made his debut in 1947, more than 16 full years prior to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” often thought of as the centerpiece of the American Civil Rights Movement.

“With the passage of time, there’s an opportunity for amnesia,” explained Gaither, whose work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation is an ongoing effort to fight such an occurrence. “A movie like this reminds us of what life was really like back then.”

For his part, Span expressed not only gratitude for the doors the previous generations opened that  allowed him to do what he does, but also pride in the opportunity to so publicly  celebrate Robinson’s legacy every April 15.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

Students soak in a day of history and discussion.

“It’s a day that I look forward to every year,” he said of MLB’s league-wide day of recognition, on which all players wear the number 42. “We get a chance to honor a special individual.”

When asked if they thought they would have had the bravery to do what Robinson did, Span and Tarasco had slightly different takes. While the current player expressed hope that he could have done the same, Tarasco was more forthcoming.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have,” he said.

Ultimately, though, Robinson’s success signified something greater to Tarasco. His biggest takeaway from the film was that the spirit of the team won out over individual prejudice, a sentiment that will never be forgotten and will never go out of style.

“It’s not about who’s right, it’s about what’s right.”

A Story About Dave and Jack

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Last Friday, Nationals radio broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler attended an event at the Library of Congress which featured a great number of baseball artifacts on display. Many of the items were donated by Bob Wolff, the legendary Washington broadcaster who was part of the class inducted into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame prior to Sunday’s game on the field at Nationals Park.

“There were a lot of articles related to Jackie Robinson, including a handwritten letter from Robinson to Branch Rickey,” explained Jageler of the collection.

Among the pieces of history was a single, typewritten sheet written by one legendary baseball man about another one who, unbeknownst to either at the time, would ascend to legendary status himself.

The page was a scouting report written by a then-adviser for the St. Louis Cardinals about a young, Minor League second baseman. It read as follows:


September 14 & 15, 1964

Rochester, N.Y.

Rochester vs. Jacksonville

JOHNSON, DAVE            (Rochester Infielder)

            Tall, slim right hander now playing second base.            21 years old.            First year player.            Good looking fielder.            Good batting form.            A major league possibility.             Try to include him in any possible deal with Baltimore.


Yes, that’s the same Branch Rickey, the one depicted by Harrison Ford in the recently released “42” about the life of Jackie Robinson, sharing his thoughts on the Nationals very own Davey Johnson.

Johnson, at age 21 in his first professional season, swatted 19 home runs while compiling a .264/.345/.458 line that season, also helping turn 62 double plays as a second baseman. Three years later, he would begin the 13-year Major League career that included four All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and a pair of World Championships.

“I knew Davey would be very flattered to know that Branch Rickey thought he was a tradable commodity,” said Jageler, who shared the story with Washington’s manager last weekend.

Needless to say, Rickey had a good eye for young talent.

Remembering 42

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Every year on April 15, at ballparks across the country, young baseball fans will look down at the field and notice something different. Each and every member of both teams wearing the same number on the backs of their jerseys. Inevitably, those who do not know the reason will ask, ‘Why is every player wearing the number 42?”

Perhaps this year, the question will have already been answered.

Kendra Gaither (right) with several Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars at Nationals Park on Sunday.

Kendra Gaither (right) with several Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars at Nationals Park on Sunday.

With the feature film “42” opening in theaters nationwide last weekend, the story of Jackie Robinson has taken center stage. His stellar, 10-year, Hall-of-Fame career transcended the field of play, impacting society in a way that no other athlete has in recent memory. Deservedly, Jackie Robinson’s iconic number 42 jersey is the only one retired across the game of baseball.

“I see him as transformative, the way that he continued to advocate outside of baseball,” said Kendra Gaither, a volunteer and chair of the Mid-Atlantic Scholar Advisory Committee of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “The integration of baseball and the transformation that Jackie Robinson helped to bring about in baseball was really a larger measurement of what was happening in our own society. That’s why I think the story of Jackie Robinson continues to grow.”

Gaither brought a group of scholars to the Nationals-Braves game on Saturday, after which they departed for a screening of the film. While the Nationals unfortunately do not play at home on Monday, they honored Robinson Saturday and will do so again on the road in Miami, as the entire sport dons Robinson’s 42 for tonight’s games.

The Nationals own Bryce Harper, a proud student of the game’s history, has listed Robinson as one of his personal heroes. Harper, of course, took home the Jackie Robinson Award as the top rookie in the National League last season. The award was named after Robinson, who won it himself in 1947, overcoming immense social and cultural pressures to help lead the Brooklyn Dodgers all the way to the World Series in his very first season.

“It’s incredibly moving to see all the players wearing 42,” said Gaither, who has taken part in Jackie Robinson Day at Nationals Park for the past two seasons. “To be able to come to Nationals Park and see how much it also means to the players and the fans that are here, it’s incredibly inspiring.”

The Jackie Robinson Foundation was founded by Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and has thrived for over 40 years, helping more than 1,400 students with a better than 99 percent graduation rate. To learn more about the Jackie Robinson foundation, please visit

13 Things We’re Excited About for 2013: #6

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In the lead up to Opening Day at Nationals Park on April 1, we’re counting down 13 things we’re excited about on and off the field heading into the 2013 season. Be sure to check back each day as we add another item to the list and get one day closer to the return of baseball to Washington!

#6: Bryce Harper – What’s Next?

COVER-mediumSo far, so good. Bryce Harper entered the league as perhaps the most heralded young prospect in baseball history, and lived up to the nearly overwhelming expectations levied upon him by capturing the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Aptly named after one of Harper’s idols, Jackie Robinson, the award seemed almost predestined to be Harper’s after his signature moment of the 2012 campaign – the teenager’s steal of home off of Phillies hurler Cole Hamels. It’s a move so connected with Robinson with that the image of him doing so is emblazoned upon the trophy itself.

Harper swiped 18 bags while swatting 22 home runs, all in just 139 games. He electrified crowds with his hustle, his raw power and his cannon arm in the outfield. More importantly, he solidified a Nationals lineup as it came into its own, and was instrumental in the run to the club’s first-ever postseason appearance.

So, what’s next? Only time will tell. Make sure to pick up a copy of Nationals Magazine – available at the ballpark starting this Friday, March 29 – in which we talk to Harper about how he hopes to build off his stellar inaugural year.