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ANGELS REPORT

Players welcome Robinson homage

April 16, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Garret Anderson walked into the Angels clubhouse Tuesday morning, and before him was a Jackie Robinson panorama.

In each cubicle in a row of 20 lockers hung a No. 42 jersey with no name, to be worn in honor of the man who 61 years ago Tuesday was the first African American to play in the major leagues.

"Yeah, it is cool," said Anderson, the veteran outfielder. "It's cool that everybody recognizes it, that it's a full baseball thing, not just one team doing it here or there."

Seven Angels planned to wear No. 42, but General Manager Tony Reagins, one of three African American GMs in baseball, suggested last week the whole team wear it.

Manager Mike Scioscia and pitcher John Lackey, the team's union representative, agreed, and the Angels were one of nine teams, including the Texas Rangers, whose entire rosters wore No. 42 on Tuesday.

"I think it's a good idea -- the more, the better," outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said. "There will be a kid in the stands today who asks his mom or dad, 'Why is everyone wearing the same number?' And they'll have a talk about [Robinson]. We want to bring attention to his legacy, what he brought to the community and to the nation."

Do today's players have an appreciation for what Robinson, the former Dodgers second baseman, went through?

"None of us will ever experience what Jackie went through playing his first season," Matthews said. "But I would hope everyone has an idea of the sacrifices players before us made in order to be where we are now, to make what we make now. Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, these guys literally blazed a trail for us."

Still, according to a study released Tuesday, 8.2% of major leaguers are black, down from 8.4% in 2006.

"It's become a global game," Anderson said. "More people have the opportunity to play; therefore, it makes it harder to get here, no matter what race you are. When you have players from all over the world and no teams added, it makes it tougher."

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Chone Figgins was hitless in 22 career at-bats against Kevin Millwood before finally slapping a single to left field off the right-hander in the third inning Tuesday.

Figgins was so happy he stood on first and thrust both arms in the air. He then hit a run-scoring single off Millwood in the fourth.

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With second baseman Howie Kendrick sidelined by a hamstring strain and reserve outfielder Reggie Willits getting very little playing time, the Angels might send Willits to triple-A Salt Lake to get some at-bats and recall a player such as Brandon Wood or Matt Brown to give them some infield coverage until Kendrick returns.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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