In the movie theatre and the ballpark, it’s been a good few days if you’re in the Jackie Robinson business.
Major League Baseball observes Jackie Robinson Day at games played on April 15 and 16, with pre-game ceremonies and every player on the field wearing Robinson’s retired jersey number “42.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers led the celebration with Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel, daughter Sharon, and son David attending last night’s game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.
Harrison Ford, who plays Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in the movie “42”, threw the ceremonial first pitch.
All of that happened in a sold-out Dodger Stadium.
"I can’t remember us ever selling out a Jackie Robinson night that fell on a week night," said David Siegel, the Dodgers senior director of ticket sales.
Dodger Stadium was full of fans, with the first 40,000 receiving a mini-statue of Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammates Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe.
"42" boosts ticket, souvenir sales
During the weekend, “42” opened in movie theaters nationwide and led at the box office with a take of $27.3 million dollars.
The buzz from the movie brought fans to major league ballparks, and helped knock sales of Robinson-themed merchandise out of the park.
Fanatics.com, the largest online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, said since the beginning of baseball’s regular season on March 31, sales of Jackie Robinson T-shirts, jerseys and caps are up more than 1000 percent over the same period last year. On Saturday and Sunday, Robinson merchandise outsold the merchandise of current baseball players on the site.
The Dodgers said sales at the stadium’s team stores were 15 percent higher than usual on Jackie Robinson Day.
Jackie Robinson "still relevant"
"Jackie Robinson stands out as one of the most significant clients that we represent," said Mark Roesler, founder of CMG Worldwide. The company manages the licensing rights of deceased celebrities for their estates and families. Roesler puts Robinson in the same league with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean—two other celebrity icons whose rights are managed by CMG.
“You know, decades after they’ve passed, they’re still relevant and today’s generation. They want to know about the Jackie Robinsons of the world,” said Roesler.
Roesler wouldn’t comment on the deal between the Robinson family and Legendary Pictures, which made the movie “42.”
CMG Worldwide licenses replica jerseys of Jackie Robinson’s Dodger uniform, as well as his uniforms from his paying days at Pasadena's John Muir High School and UCLA. Roesler said this it’s too early to know how well those items are selling.
Major League Baseball and the Dodgers are top sponsors of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides college scholarships and graduate study grants to student of color in need. Each Major League Baseball team also auctions off a #42 jersey signed by all of the club's players. The proceeds go to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.