Our own Johnette Howard sat down with the last man to regularly wear Jackie Robinson's No. 42, the greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera. Rivera loves the tradition of everyone in the majors wearing No. 42 for one game during the season.
"I think it's beautiful," Rivera says, citing the once-a-year visual of all his fellow 42s-for-a-day mingling around the batting cage, running onto the diamond, standing at attention as the national anthem is played, or hustling around the field once the games begin. Rivera grew up in Panama knowing about Latin stars Juan Marichal and Roberto Clemente before he became aware of Robinson. He likes the symbolism of all these latter-day 42s -- be they African-Americans or whites or Latinos -- standing on equal footing. The tribute to Robinson is meant to ensure that no one forgets that this wasn't always so.
"Jackie Robinson was a great man," Rivera said over the weekend before a game against the Baltimore Orioles. "I have always said that wearing this number is a privilege and a great responsibility … to represent what Jackie represented for us, as a minority, and for all of baseball in general, it's tremendous. For me, it's just a privilege to wear and to try to keep that legacy. It makes me want to be at my best. And that's what I tried to do my whole career."