Jackie Robinson Statue Unveiled at Rose Bowl

Photo courtesy Sierra Kemp/Rose Bowl Stadium Thomas and Alba Tull (from left) pose with Vin Scully, Rachel Robinson and Sharon Robinson after the statue of Jackie Robinson they funded was unveiled at the Rose Bowl Stadium last week.
Photo courtesy Sierra Kemp/Rose Bowl Stadium
Thomas and Alba Tull (from left) pose with Vin Scully, Rachel Robinson and Sharon Robinson after the statue of Jackie Robinson they funded was unveiled at the Rose Bowl Stadium last week.

The weather was perfectly bright and clear last Wednesday, setting the best possible stage for the unveiling of the statue of local and national sports icon Jackie Robinson at the Rose Bowl Stadium.
Clad in a No. 55 jersey and old-school football helmet, Robinson’s newest statue depicts him engaging in a dramatic stiff-arm during what might be a kickoff or punt-return, for which the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer earned a reputation playing football at then-Pasadena Junior College (now Pasadena City College). That jersey number is what he wore as a footballer (in which he also played quarterback and safety) before breaking the race barrier in professional baseball.
“A more spectacular place, we simply couldn’t find,” said Pasadena City Councilman Victor Gordo, speaking at the unveiling ceremony last week. “This Rose Garden will forever frame Jackie and his accomplishments for generations upon generations of those who will visit the Rose Bowl Stadium.”
The Rose Bowl Stadium serves as an appropriate shrine for the statue, for Robinson would log a total of 13 games at the stadium while at UCLA, PJC and John Muir High School. His 104-yard kickoff return touchdown during that time reportedly remains a stadium record.
Vin Scully, the storied voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years, recalled initially meeting Robinson when he joined the Dodgers as a broadcaster in 1950, when the team was still based in Brooklyn.
“I was 22 years old, going to my first spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers,” he told the crowd. “Jackie was a star by then, yet I felt after the first time I met him that I could walk up to him at any time of day or night to talk to him, and he would listen.”
Scully, who was speaking on his 90th birthday, lauded Robinson as someone who “never had a fear of failure” and carried himself with remarkable composure considering the adversity he faced as the first black player in the major leagues. His opponents soon learned to avoid angering Robinson, Scully recalled, because Robinson would simply use that anger to get even better.
“He was so incredible at hanging onto himself,” Scully said. “I’ve never seen someone get angry and improve whatever it was about himself.”
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, who was born in Brooklyn, said he witnessed one of Robinson’s famed home-plate steals while growing up.
“The shared experience of being able to link Pasadena and Brooklyn has been a tremendous experience,” Tornek said.
Billionaire film producer and Pittsburgh Steelers part-owner Thomas Tull and wife Alba donated the funding for the statue.
“I hope for generations to come that people visit this garden, pause for a moment and are inspired by Jackie Robinson’s life,” he said. “Hopefully it inspires us all to be better.”
On hand for the warm welcome were Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and their daughter, Sharon Robinson, the latter of whom said the nation lost “our husband, father, son and cultural icon” way too early when her father died in 1972.
“Now, Jackie Robinson and the Pasadena Rose Bowl are joined in history and in life,” Sharon Robinson said. “Thank you.”

Leave a Reply