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Jackie Robinson Day celebrations mark 75th anniversary of breaking of MLB's color barrier

Jackie Robinson celebrated on 75th anniversary of breaking the color barrier 02:29

NEW YORK - Friday marked 75 years since Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball and broke barriers beyond the field.

As CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported, baseball greats gathered in Times Square to celebrate Robinson, a legendary player who paved the way for them and countless others, in the city where it all started.

"If it wasn't for him, maybe my dad would have never played. Maybe I would have never played," Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. said.

"Seventy-five years ago today, in Brooklyn, New York, nine miles from here, he broke the color barrier," said Harold Reynolds.

Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, a day that changed baseball and the course of history.

"Jackie showed the world that equality should be a fundamental right for all and that real change in our society was possible," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.

"Carrying his legacy forward is the most important job that we have as grandchildren," said Sonya Pankey, Robinson's eldest grandchild.

This year, Robinson's name was displayed for all to see on a street sign at 42nd and Broadway.

"Jackie Robinson Way!" Deputy Mayor for Economic & Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer announced.

Robinson's famous number 42 will shine on the Empire State Building, too.

Former Yankees closer and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear 42, which was retired by MLB in 1997.

"It was an honor for me, no less than that because of what it represents," Rivera said.

Robinson's legacy resonates with fans, too.

"Jackie Robinson did such amazing things for not even the sport of baseball, for the country," said Walter Hilsenbeck from Long Island City.

Brandon Morato was among 50 kids who got to spend the day with the players and go on a shopping spree at the MLB Store.

"Just follow the example that Jackie gave us to follow," former Yankees manager and Hall of Famer Joe Torre said.

The "Jackie Robinson Way" street sign will head to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown after the day's celebrations.

Robinson's widow, Rachel, is also celebrating a milestone in 2022. She's turning 100!

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