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Jays to honour Jackie Robinson Add to ...

Toronto Blue Jays players Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas and Royce Clayton, as well as hitting coach Mickey Brantley, will all wear No. 42 in next Sunday's game at the Rogers Centre against the Detroit Tigers to honour baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

The day will mark the 60th anniversary when Robinson first broke into Major League Baseball to break the game's colour barrier and players across the league are planning to carry out similar tributes.

"Obviously it's a special day," said Wells, the Toronto centre fielder prior to Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "It's just a small thing to do for a great man and what he had to go through in order for African Americans to be part of the game today.

"So I think that's an honour to put that number on."

Wells said he would be joined in the tribute by Clayton, the Jays shortstop, and designated hitter Thomas "if they can find a jersey big enough for Frank," as well as Brantley.

The idea to honour Robinson in this manner was first broached by Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who called Commissioner Bud Selig and received permission to wear uniform No. 42 on April 15th.

Not only did Selig agree, but he extended an invitation for all MLB clubs to allow any of its members to wear No. 42 on that day as a tribute to Robinson.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are planning to have every one of their players wear No. 42 on that day.

"This is a wonderful gesture on Ken's part and a fitting tribute to the great Jackie Robinson and one, I believe, that all clubs will eagerly endorse," Selig said in a statement. "To make this happen I gladly will temporarily suspend the official retirement of uniform No. 42 on that day."

Back on April 15, 1997, Robinson's number was officially retired throughout baseball, never to be worn again by a player.

"It's just paying respect for the guy who started it all off for us," Thomas said. "He set a high standard for all of us just to follow in his footsteps. It's a special thing. Griffey was the first one to come out and suggest it."

"It's a great idea. And to have more than one person on the same team wear it, it's going to be kind of funny."

What was not so funny for Thomas, at least 10 years ago, was the storm of controversy he found himself in regarding Robinson.

During part of an interview that Thomas gave back then to ESPN, he was asked what Robinson's legacy meant to young players and whether he thinks about it.

"Not really," Thomas said at the time. "You know I've got to be honest. I guess I'm more from the new age. I don't know much about the history and that part of things."

Thomas held a news conference the day after the interview aired to clear the air, saying that his comments were taken out of context, arguing that only seconds of a four-minute interview were broadcast.

Thomas said he began the interview talking about the educational process of the young black players at the time. Thomas said he was "uneducated" about the history surrounding Robinson until he got to college.

"It was something blown out of proportion," Thomas said Saturday. "It was dumb. It was one of those things I was trying to tell people that kids should be educated at the school level about Jackie Robinson because it wasn't taught.

"People just wanted to start a controversy with me, that's all that it was."

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