When MLB retired Robinson's number 10 years ago, there was a handful of players wearing it. Each of them was allowed to continue to wear it for the length of their careers. Note that that was not for the length of that particular contract, but for the rest of their careers. All but two changed their numbers at that point. Mo Vaughn and Mariano Rivera, each of whom had specifically asked their teams for #42 from the beginning of their careers, in order to honour Robinson, kept wearing those numbers. Vaughn retired a few years ago, so that grandfather clause now applies only to Rivera.
Rivera asked for it because he was not only honouring Robinson as the first modern black ballplayer, but as the man who opened baseball's doors to black players and to players from around the world. He wears it in recognition of the fact that without Robinson and Branch Rickey, Rivera himself might never have signed a professional contract.
Imagine MLB today with no Latino players and no Asian players. That's the difference that Robinson and Rickey made, and that's why Rivera honours that contribution by wearing Robinson's number.
· 1 decade ago