Jerome Williams has played all over the world, and at almost every stop, he has angled to get the same number, not knowing for sure if he would get it. While playing in Puerto Rico, he was second in the pecking order for picking numbers, and the player who had first dibs chose No. 40.
Williams immediately grabbed No. 42, and the teammate who had picked No. 40 asked why.
"Jackie Robinson," said Williams.
"Oh, jeez, I forgot," his teammate replied, already regretting his choice.
The Angels' pitcher has worn No. 42 in Mexico, in Taiwan and while playing independent league ball. So tonight will be a big night for him.
"It's my first time pitching against the Yankees, the first time in Yankee Stadium," he said Saturday, sitting in front of his locker. "And it's the first time I'll wear 42 here [in the big leagues]."
Mariano Rivera is the last active player to wear No. 42, and once he's retired, the only day a player will wear it is April 15 of every season -- the day every player wears it in honor of Robinson. The first number that Rivera was assigned in Yankees camp, as a young pitcher, was No. 58. Rivera is not one to ask for anything; he was assigned No. 42, and didn't immediately make the connection to Robinson, he recalled.
But in 1997, Major League Baseball retired the number, other than for those players who already wore it, such as Rivera. A few years ago, Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, asked Rivera to participate in an event, and he remembers talking about Jackie, and the number. "For me to be the last to wear it is an honor," Rivera said. "But it also is a lot of responsibility. You have to wear it with a lot of pride."
As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Reggie Jackson can remember going to Shibe Park and watching Robinson play, never taking his eyes off the Dodger. Then, after the game, Jackson -- who guesses he was about 7 or 8 years old at the time -- remembers waiting outside the visitors clubhouse. "I was squeezing between legs, and then I looked up," Jackson said.
There was Jackie Robinson.
Two decades later, on Oct. 15, 1972, Jackson was on crutches, as the Oakland Athletics prepared to play the Reds in Game 2 of the World Series. Robinson was introduced and stepped to a microphone, and to this day, Jackson has a vision in his mind's eye of Robinson that day; Jackson remembers precisely what he said.
Nine days later, Robinson passed away.
This is a day to salute baseball's best pioneer, writes Martin Fennelly.
Years before Robinson played in the majors, Branch Rickey was moved by a catcher's tears, writes Chris Lamb.
• Williams was out of the majors in 2008, and he was thinking about walking away from baseball after pitching in just 11 games in 2006 and 2007 for the Cubs and Nationals. In 2008, there were no offers from major league teams, and he was staring into the abyss of the end of his career. His reality was that he had no education, no training in another field, and he had four kids, ranging in age from 2 to 9. He said he realized, "Baseball is my life, and I had to support my family."
Williams worked his way back, dropping the extra weight that had been a problem, and while pitching in Triple-A in 2011, he had no expectation that he would be called up. Williams just wanted to finish the minor league season well.
But he was summoned by the Angels in August, and on Aug. 21, he started against the Orioles, and won. It was the first time that his oldest child, Tre, had gotten to see him pitch in person. "Dad, that was amazing," Tre said, moving his father to tears.
• The Giants were hit by one of the season's first major injuries: Brian Wilson could be out for the year, Steve Kroner writes. San Francisco will need the rest of the bullpen to step up, writes Bruce Jenkins.
• The Cardinals' championship rings include the Rally Squirrel, writes Derrick Goold.
• After Rivera's first outing of the season -- when his velocity was 3 or 4 mph lower than normal, and his cutter was flat -- the Yankees determined that he was bent forward too far in his setup. Rivera has been more upright since, and has regained velocity, as well as the movement on his signature pitch.
• The Cubs' new regime is determined to get better plate discipline out of its hitters as it rebuilds the team. So far, Chicago has been hack-happy. From Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Info, the ranking of first-pitch swings through Friday's games, from highest percentage to lowest:
Texas Rangers: 34.7
Tampa Bay Rays: 31.5
Atlanta Braves 31.2
San Diego Padres 30.8
Kansas City Royals: 20.5
Los Angeles Angels: 19.3
Minnesota Twins: 18.9
Cleveland Indians: 17.2
New York Mets 17.1
From Bill Center's story:
- The Padres have six homers and 29 RBI on the season. After Saturday, Kemp alone has five homers and 14 RBI against the Padres.
"Is there a better player in the game right now?" [Padres manager Bud] Black asked in his post-game remarks while discussing Kemp. "That'd be hard to imagine.
"He's the complete package, power, average and speed at a premier position (center field). He's matured into a guy who has taken the game by the throat."
Kemp has 15 RBIs this season. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The last player with 15 RBIs in his team's first nine games is Albert Pujols in 2010 (the last player with more was Alex Rodriguez, 16 in 2007). The only other Dodger with 15 or more RBIs in his team's first nine games is Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, who had 16 in 1953.
Moves, deals and decisions
Dings and dents
5.The Rays put a catcher on the disabled list.
2.Oakland couldn't solve the king of popups, writes Susan Slusser.
3.The Giants won on an error.
7.The Reds were shut down again.
8. Mike Minor (a Vanderbilt guy) shut down the Brewers. From ESPN Stats and Info, how Minor beat the Brewers:
A. Minor threw 41 off-speed pitches (22 changeups, 12 sliders, seven curveballs); Brewers went 0-for-8 with two strikeouts. This season, opponents are 1-for-16 against Minor in at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch.
B. Minor threw 37 two-strike pitches (second highest total in his career), but the Brewers went 1-for-16 with four strikeouts.
C. The Brewers went 0-for-8 with two strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch away. Minor had one start last season in which he did not allow a hit in an at-bat ending with a pitch away.
9. The Red Sox have busted out against the Rays, and they racked up 13 runs Saturday. From ESPN Stats and Info: Over the past two games, the Red Sox are 15-for-27 with runners in scoring position, more than twice as good as in their first six games. If you take out their loss to the Tigers in which they scored 12 runs, Boston had been just 6-for-35 with runners in scoring position prior to Friday.
The Red Sox have scored a dozen runs three times already this season. The rest of MLB has done so twice. Boston had the most such games (16) last season.
The Sox can finally smile, writes Michael Silverman.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Logan Morrison muffed a fly ball with two outs in the ninth that would have kept the game tied.
Morrison's play in left field ranked last in the majors last season in defensive runs saved, which measures a fielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs and his other tools, such as his throwing arm. He cost the Marlins 26 runs.
11. The Rays' pitching got hit around again, Marc Topkin writes.
12. The Astros said they battled, and it paid off.
16. The Phillies need to pull it together after their latest loss, writes Bob Ford. To repeat: The Phillies have a pillow-soft schedule in the first 39 games of the year. After that, it gets much tougher.
18. The Pirates have no margin for error these days, and they made a late mistake.
20. Phil Hughes got hit hard. Before the game, Joe Girardi acknowledged that this is a time when some members of the rotation are auditioning for a spot, given the impending returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda. The patience for Hughes is waning, writes Ken Davidoff.
21. The Tigers had a weird day.
• The Red Sox's owners have a similar debacle happening in Liverpool, writes Jere Longman.
• The Rockies' players are precise about their walk-up music, writes Troy Renck.
• The Marlins' new park is not going to be a hitters' paradise. Watched a lot of their game on Saturday, and Hanley Ramirez absolutely blasted a ball to straightaway center field; he seemed to think it was out of the park, because he posed for a moment at home plate before dropping the bat. And the ball was some 15 feet short of the center field fence. As Ramirez walked off the field, he gave a big thumbs-up -- you couldn't tell to whom he gave this -- and then angrily jostled some water cups in the dugout.
• The Brewers need better pitching, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• Nancy Bea Hefley has been playing the organ at Dodger Stadium for 25 years.
• If Damon gets 3,000 hits, it wouldn't change his Hall of Fame credentials, writes Joel Sherman.
• The Pirates are missing out on big TV dollars, writes Bob Cohn.
• We've got the Angels and Yankees on "Sunday Night Baseball" at 8. I promise Terry Francona will make a better showing if there's a foul ball back to the booth.
• Vanderbilt ran the Wildcat in its spring game.
And today will be better than yesterday.