Newcombe honors his idol Jackie in LA
Former Dodgers pitcher speaks of Robinson's influence
LOS ANGELES -- Don Newcombe took to a podium behind home plate at Dodger Stadium Thursday night with a thin piece of paper in hand. Sitting behind him, listening, were Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, Tommy Lasorda, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Frank Robinson, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Tommy Davis.
he paper contained just three words, as Newcombe spoke into the microphone, "Thank you, Jackie."
The Dodgers and D-backs wore No. 42 like all of baseball Thursday in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947. The Dodgers will wear the jerseys again Friday when the Giants come to town for a three-game series. San Francisco was off Thursday.
For Newcombe, a teammate of Robinson's for six seasons and a soon-to-be 84-year-old who has survived cancer, he had no doubt of what Robinson did for his life.
"Jackie Robinson period, not just Jackie Robinson Day, will be important to me as long as I live," said Newcombe, who threw out the first pitch to center fielder Matt Kemp. "Jackie Robinson is my idol, he's been my idol all these years and he's in a great way responsible for me doing whatever I was able to do with my career."
Between home and third, while the Dodgers took batting practice, Newcombe told stories as he mingled with people on the field: the first of how he was touring for the government at a school in New Orleans, waiting to speak to children in a library. He looked around and didn't see one book on Jackie Robinson.
"I sent 'em boxes of books on Jackie and [the principal] said he'd put them in the library," Newcombe said. "So if that's the case in New Orleans, it's the same elsewhere. They didn't know about the history of Jackie."
It's why Newcombe said, the day will continue to hold importance to future generations. Not everyone knows Jackie's story.
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.