Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game returned to Dodger Stadium today for the first time in more than 40 years, bringing with it a host of Hollywood all-stars to take in the action on the field. But it was Oscar winner Denzel Washington who had the honor of kicking off the Fox telecast as part of a special tribute to Dodger legend Jackie Robinson.
Washington — following a performance of the national anthem from Ben Platt who wore a “Choice” pin amid a reckoning over reproductive rights — walked up to home plate shortly after 5 p.m. wearing a Dodger jersey with Robinson’s iconic No. 42 on the back.
“Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, 1947,” Washington said in opening his brief remarks, recalling the date that Robinson broke color barriers by becoming the first Black player to suit up for the MLB in the modern era when he started at first base for the Dodgers (then in Brooklyn) on April 15, 1947. “When Jackie Robinson stepped onto a Major League Baseball field for the first time, armed with supreme talent and unshakable character and wearing a Dodgers uniform, he changed the game of baseball and so much more.”
Washington continued by noting that Robinson carried a “towering” presence on the field as he went on to pick up such honors as rookie of the year, most valuable player, World Series champion and seven-time All-Star. “Beyond the field, Jackie Robinson challenged us to become better versions of ourselves,” he said. “Business leader, family man, activist, Hall of Famer. He said that life is not a spectator sport, and he lived that motto to the fullest. Number 42 blazed a trail that would light the way for people from every walk of life and every color and to this very day…that profound impact looms just as large today as it did 75 years ago.”
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In addition to that 75th-anniversary milestone, today’s game just so happens to coincide with the 100th birthday of Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, who was born July 19, 1922. It’s not the first time Washington has turned up at Dodger Stadium to honor Robinson. He was there earlier this year to celebrate Robinson’s legacy on official Jackie Robinson Day, April 15. Washington, a lifelong New York Yankees fan, even visited the Dodgers Clubhouse to shake hands and share words with the team.
During that April visit, Washington detailed the early days of his youth, falling in love with the game of baseball and idolizing the New York players. While he admitted that he despised the Brooklyn Dodgers because of his beloved Yankees, he never lost sight of the impact players had not only on him but on his peers. “I’m here to tell you, you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. You can’t take it with you. You can leave it here,” said Washington, himself a talented baseball player in his youth who played for his high school team as a catcher and led the team in home runs. “Not just the money, the memories and the joy that you give children, the love that they have when they walk around with your jerseys on. … I just pray that you understand the power and authority that you all have, the influence that you all have. Never take your gift for granted.”
Baseball lovers didn’t seem to be taking today’s All-Star Game for granted. On a hot day with temperatures hovering in the mid-80s, Dodger Stadium was sold out and teeming with fans, largely rooting for the local pros with six Dodgers named to the National League squad with star pitcher Clayton Kershaw taking the mound first.