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04/15/09 10:45 PM ET

Bucs honor No. 42 on a special night

Pregame festivities highlight Jackie Robinson Day at PNC

PITTSBURGH -- On the 62nd anniversary of the date when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color baseball, players and teams around the league spent Wednesday remembering and honoring Robinson's legacy.

Hours before Wednesday's game, a No. 42 jersey was placed in front of each player's stall in both the home and visitors' clubhouses at PNC Park. Commissioner Bud Selig had asked all players and coaches to wear nameless No. 42 jerseys for the day as a unified effort to recognize Robinson's importance to the game.

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"It's just awesome to remember him throughout the game of baseball by having everyone wear his number on this occasion," said Pirates third-base coach Tony Beasley. "You don't get to wear No. 42 anymore, so it's a special memory and a special day. He meant so much to the game. And the way he carried himself with dignity and respect, he deserves this."

Beasley's comments were echoed throughout the clubhouse, as there was little question that the gesture to honor Robinson's impact was felt by those who put on those No. 42 jerseys.

"I enjoy wearing 42, because for one day I get to be humbled, grateful, saddened and proud all at the same time," outfielder Craig Monroe said. "All the sweat and tears that we think that we had to go through even at this level, to put the 42 on, you just put it on in amazement at what one person can do to change our whole perception of the game of baseball."

During the past two years, wearing Robinson's number was a voluntary act, though the Pirates were one of nine teams to have all its players wear No. 42 last season.

"With all Major League players, coaches and umpires wearing Jackie's No. 42, we hope to demonstrate the magnitude of his impact on the game of baseball," Selig said earlier this week. "Major League Baseball will never forget the contributions that Jackie made both on and off the field."

Though Monroe wore No. 42 previously with both the Tigers and Twins, this is the first year that all of his teammates wore the jersey with him.

"By no means am I disappointed that everyone gets to wear it," Monroe said. "For the game, I think, it looks better to have everybody do it. Not only did he change the game for myself, but he changed the whole game for all. I think it's a great thing that every player gets to wear it."

While humbled to honor Robinson on Wednesday, Astros manager Cecil Cooper also suggested that a day be set aside each year to honor the late Roberto Clemente, a gesture that would certainly be received well here in Pittsburgh, where Clemente spent his entire career.

"I think they ought to do it for 21 as well. Why not?," Cooper said, prior to Wednesday's game. "I think it's good we're doing it for Jackie, because he meant so much, particularly to minorities. In Roberto's case, I think we ought to do it, too. It'd be great."

There have been petitions to have Clemente's No. 21 retired league wide, but Robinson's number remains the only one to be retired by all 30 clubs.

As a part of the pregame tribute, the Pirates held a short pregame ceremony in which they played a video tribute to Robinson and recognized two local college students who have benefited from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by Robinson's widow, Rachel.

Ashley Hill, a mechanical engineering major at Carnegie Mellon, and Anna Nwokelo, a biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, were both given No. 42 Pirates jerseys by team president Frank Coonelly in the on-field ceremony. Each has received a college scholarship from the foundation, which awards four-year scholarships to academically-gifted minority students who otherwise would not have the financial means to go to college.

Since the inception of the foundation, more than 1,300 students who received scholarships from the foundation have graduated from colleges/universities.

The Pirates also honored Gregory Spencer, president and CEO of Randall Industries, on Wednesday with the 2009 Most Valuable Diverse Business Owner Award. Randall Industries is a minority-owned business based in Pittsburgh.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.