Only a few athletes have been genuine heroes, NPR radio host Scott Simon says, and some of those were heroes for what they did beyond sports. But in Simon's book, Jackie Robinson was a hero on and off the field, a “precious and rare” example of an athlete who influenced the course of American history. Today is Jackie Robinson Day, an annual salute to the man who broke the color barrier in baseball's major leagues when Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey hired him in 1946.
At pro ballparks across the nation today, including the Omaha Storm Chasers' Werner Park, players will don jerseys bearing Robinson's number, 42, which has been retired permanently from the roster of all major league clubs. He's the only player ever to receive that honor.