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Flashback Fridays: Jackie Robinson Day

Knights Have Honored Jackie, Negro Leagues Since 2014
Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, was presented with a #42 jersey from Dan Rajkowski at the team's Negro Leagues Tribute Night in 2018. All Knights players wore #42 on the field that night. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)
August 28, 2020

Since April 15, 2004, Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day. Every year on that day, players from all around the majors -- and countless other teams from around Minor League Baseball -- honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson by wearing #42 on their jerseys. Even more so, they

Since April 15, 2004, Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day. Every year on that day, players from all around the majors -- and countless other teams from around Minor League Baseball -- honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson by wearing #42 on their jerseys. Even more so, they stand for what Jackie Robinson stood for when he broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947 -- equality. Now, more than ever, Jackie Robinson Day is so important -- and so needed.

With baseball getting a late start to the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- and ultimately agreeing to a shortened, 60-game season -- Jackie Robinson Day is taking place around Major League Baseball on August 28 this year. It's important to keep this yearly tradition alive as Jackie meant so much to the game and so much to our nation.

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on the lives of others." - Jackie Robinson

CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS TRIBUTE TO THE NEGRO LEAGUES
In Charlotte, the Knights have honored the legacy of Jackie Robinson as well as the history of the Negro Leagues. Since 2014, the Knights have held a special Tribute to the Negro Leagues at the ballpark each year. At these games each season, all players on the Knights wear #42 on their jerseys and former players from the Negro Leagues come out to the ballpark to share their stories. In addition, a traveling museum is set up on the concourse by Ray Banks, a Negro Leagues historian. Local Negro Leagues historian, Michael Turner Webb, is also a part of the night to share the history of the Negro Leagues. It is truly a special game each year.

All Knights players wear #42 jerseys when the team honors the legacy of Jackie Robinson and the Negro Leagues each season. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

1ST NEGRO LEAGUES NIGHT IN 2014
The first Jackie Robinson Day celebration at Truist Field (then BB&T Ballpark) took place on April 15, 2014. As the Knights moved into their new Uptown Charlotte home just four days earlier, the ballpark was ready for new traditions. Thanks to the vision of Eddie G.G. Burton, a former player in the Negro Leagues and a Charlotte resident, the Knights began their yearly Tribute to the Negro Leagues tradition. With help from Eddie, the event grew each year. More celebrations, more players, and more important messages made it so special. I'm proud to say that it was because of Eddie's tireless efforts that the event became one of the finest celebrations in all of Minor League Baseball.

Eddie G.G. Burton (middle) spent a lot of time making the team's Tribute to Negro Leagues a special night at the ballpark. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

A YEARLY TRADITION
Although the Knights have not always been home for a game on April 15, the team still always finds a date to honor Jackie and the Negro Leagues. The 2015 celebration took place on May 17 and it was the first time the team welcomed a total of four former players from the Negro Leagues. The 2015 celebration was also the first in which the Knights welcomed a traveling museum.

The 2nd Annual Negro Leagues Night took place on May 17, 2015 in Uptown Charlotte. From L-to-R (Standing: Joel Skinner, Michael Turner Webb, Ray Banks, Luther Atkinson, Bill Cathcart. Sitting: Carl Forney and Eddie G.G. Burton).

The Knights celebrated their 3rd Annual Negro Leagues Night on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, 2016 and their 4th Annual Negro Leagues Night on April 18, 2017. Each of these celebrations featured former players such as Carl Forney, a star pitcher from Belmont, who played in the Negro Leagues with teams such as the Charlotte Black Hornets and Indianapolis Clowns. Other former players such as Luther “Luke” Atkinson, Sam Allen, and Bill Cathcart made it a yearly tradition to visit the Knights for these special tribute nights.

Sadly, Forney passed away on December 16, 2017 and the 5th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute Night, which took place on April 17, 2018, honored his memory. Carl's grandson, Jordan, threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch. In addition, the Knights received a tremendous honor when Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, made a special appearance at the ballpark. The Knights presented Sharon with a #42 Knights jersey during an on-field ceremony.

Jacob May, Sharon Robinson, and Garey Ingram before the 5th Annual Negro Leagues Night on April 17, 2018. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

TRIBUTE TO EDDIE G.G. BURTON
Sadly, the 5th Annual Negro Leagues Night was the final one for its founder, Eddie G.G. Burton. On Monday, October 22, 2018, Burton passed away at the age of 88. There since the beginning in 2014, the tribute nights could not have taken place each year without the work of Eddie. On Saturday, November 10, 2018, the Knights held a memorial service at the ballpark for Eddie.

READ MORE ABOUT ----> EDDIE G.G. BURTON

Eddie G.G. Burton shaking the hand of Charlotte Knights outfielder Jason Bourgeois with Ray Banks looking on. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

In 2019, with the memory of Eddie GG. Burton on all of our minds, the Knights held their 6th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute Night on April 9. On hand for this special tribute to the Negro Leagues and the memory of Eddie, were his wife, Gaile, and son, Keith. In an emotional ceremonial first pitch, Keith looked up to the heavens and threw out the pitch.

Keith Burton thew out the ceremonial first pitch at the 6th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute in honor of his dad, Eddie G.G. Burton. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

KEEPING THE HISTORY OF JACKIE AND THE NEGRO LEAGUES ALIVE
The Knights were scheduled to host their 7th Annual Negro Leagues Tribute during the 2020 season. With the 100th Anniversary of the Negro Leagues this year, the celebration was scheduled for April 22. The team had many big plans for this year's game. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season was first postponed and then ultimately cancelled.

Now, as the team looks ahead, one thing is for sure, when the 2021 season comes around, the Knights will once again hold their special tributes to the Negro Leagues. The Knights will continue to honor the memory of Jackie Robinson, Eddie G.G. Burton, and all of the players who have paved the way.