Celebrating the legacy of Jackie Robinson

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s baseball teams honored Jackie Robinson at their weekend game.

Following the annual Jackie Robinson game between Lincoln and Washington, the two teams gathered for a postgame celebration that included a barbecue. SUPPLIED PHOTO

There’s no doubt, the MVP was №42.

When the Abraham Lincoln High School team traveled north Saturday to square off against George Washington, the Railsplitters came to win.

But competing was a secondary reason for the contest. The main reason was so the players from both teams could honor the late Jackie Robinson, who broke the racial barrier in Major League Baseball when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

“It’s important for them to know the history of the game and to respect it,” said Lincoln coach John Larsen. “This is the fifth year we did it, and we try and make it fun. I think we’re the only team in the city that does it. A few years back a lot of teams did it, but no, I believe we’re the only ones in the Catholic League or the Public League.”

The event is more than a baseball game.

Every player wears a №42 jersey, and unlike regular season games, every player in uniform bats.

The competition level was high, as the Eagles defeated the Railsplitters 5–4, but good sportsmanship was the higher priority.

Following the game, the two teams hung around, fired up the grill, shared hotdogs and swapped baseball stories.

The Gatorade ran out, but the good times never did.

“This is really special, it’s something we’ve been doing for a few years now,” said Washington coach and athletic director Ken Geiser.

“John and I are good friends, we have a text chat going between ourselves and some other coaches, but we did this five years ago, and it’s just something we wanted to do because the kids loved it.”

The atmosphere was quite relaxed because the result didn’t impact the Public League standings. During the game, Larsen and Geiser would chat about the game, but both were also very tuned into the game. Both coaches also preached fundamentals, something that would have made Jackie Robinson proud.

“Play hard and respect the game,” Larsen said to his team. “It’s not just about winning, it’s about doing the right things, staying alert and playing hard.”

When they first started this game five years ago, the players all wore T-shirts with the №42 stitched on the back.

Now both teams have jerseys they wear.

“It’s a great thing, the kids love it and it’s a chance to play another game,” Geiser said. “A lot of things go into it. We have to have (Public League executive director) Jimmy Lynch get the field for us, we can’t just show up. It’s great that Lincoln comes down here and we’re able to do it. It’s become a great tradition.” ••