Jackie Robinson statue

Jackie Robinson’s Pasadena heritage commemorated at the Rose Bowl

Pasadena Star-News
By Christopher Yee – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
November 29, 2017

At every Major League Baseball stadium, Jackie Robinson’s iconic jersey number, 42, is retired in memory of his accomplishments on and off the field.

But at the Rose Bowl, the new statue memorializing Robinson’s Pasadena roots bears the number 55 — the number he wore while playing football for Pasadena Junior College, now Pasadena City College.

In a ceremony led by retired Los Angeles Dodger legend Vin Scully, locals and more than 100 members of the Robinson family gathered before the Rose Bowl’s rose garden to celebrate the statue’s unveiling.

Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon Robinson and her mother, Rachel Robinson, met the statue’s sculptor, Brian Hanlon, who said that in choosing to depict the athlete as a PCC football player, he had to trace back the baseball legend’s Pasadena upbringing.

“That’s fitting, considering Pasadena has been home to generations of Robinsons,” Sharon Robinson said. “For this, we give thanks and praise to Mallie Robinson, who had the courage and fortitude to move a family of four boys and one girl from Cairo, Georgia, to Pasadena, California, around the time the stadium was built.”

City Councilman and Rose Bowl Operating Company President Victor Gordo laid out Jackie Robinson’s Pasadena education: First, he attended Cleveland Elementary School, then Washington Middle School, John Muir High School, Pasadena Junior College and, finally, UCLA. Jackie Robinson played 13 football games at the Rose Bowl — four for Muir and nine for Pasadena Junior College.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said the city relishes its association with Jackie Robinson because he represents the progress this country has made toward equal opportunity for all citizens, despite the fact that the city’s record with equality in Jackie Robinson’s time could have stood improvement.

“The good news is we’ve come a long way since then, and I take the dedication of another Jackie Robinson monument in our city as a reaffirmation of the fact that we intend to do even an even better job of developing true equal opportunity for all our residents,” Tornek said.

A bronze portrait head of Jackie Robinson and his brother Mack Robinson are near City Hall. There’s also a park, community center and baseball field named after him in Pasadena.

The Rose Bowl statue was paid for as part of a larger donation from Alba and Thomas Tull and the Tull Family Foundation to the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, the stadium’s nonprofit fundraising arm. It aims to raise $40 million for stadium improvements by the Rose Bowl’s 100th birthday in 2022.

The “INSPIRE” fundraising campaign kicked off in September when UCLA alum Richard “Tod” Spieker donated $10 million, a quarter of the amount sought. In recognition of the donation, the stadium’s field will bear Spieker’s name for 25 years.

Dedan Bronzino, executive director of the Legacy Foundation, said he could not disclose the amount of the Tull family’s donation.

Thomas Tull, who helped produce the Jackie Robinsons biopic “42” as founding chairman of the board of Legendary Entertainment, said now more than ever in a divided America, it’s important to remember Jackie Robinson.

“If there’s ever a person’s life that’s emblematic of what’s right about this country, it’s Jackie Robinson,” Thomas Tull said. “I hope that for generations to come, people visit this garden and just pause for a moment and are inspired by Jackie Robinson’s life, and hopefully it’ll inspire us to all be better.”

With the speeches done, Scully invited Sharon and Rachel Robinson to join Alba and Thomas Tull in unveiling the statue. As he has done in many a Dodger broadcast, Scully said a few final words before allowing the moment to speak for itself.

“God bless Jackie Robinson, and, in retrospect, he has,” Scully said. “God blessed us for knowing, seeing and watching him live.”