Good morning. This past Friday I had the pleasure of being at Yankee Stadium for the Opening Day. The last time before that I was at Yankee Stadium was at about 1:30 a.m. in the morning the day after the Yankees's thrilling victory in the World Series. New York City has not had that kind of excitement since the Mets were World Champs in 1986, and the Yankees, way back in 1978.
With their combination of talent, modesty, drive, and determination, the Yankees captured the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers -- and many beyond New York -- regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural boundaries. During the past year, over 20,000 New Yorkers have come to to visit the World Series trophy at City Hall, and signed their names and said "thank you" to the Yankees for bringing New York such pride and distinction.
Thousands and thousands of those visitors have been children. Take it from me, I enjoyed baseball so much when I was a youngster that I understand just how important baseball is to the young in the City of New York.
In 1947, when I was a kid, Jackie Robinson broke into baseball and he changed the world of baseball forever. Long before the civil rights movement of the 1960's, even before Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was Jackie Robinson. He was an extraordinary ballplayer, in the Hall of Fame, a Most Valuable Player, a Rookie of the Year, a man who led his team to the World Championship. But most importantly, Jackie Robinson was an extraordinary human being.
Jackie Robinson broke through the color barrier at a time when many people suffered from discrimination and intolerance, merely because of the color of their skin. In the face of these almost insurmountable odds back then, Jackie Robinson handled himself with such a sense of dignity and grace, that he made people ashamed to be bigoted and prejudiced. Jackie Robinson is one of baseball's greats. That's why it's so important that our children learn about him and emulate him.
This Tuesday on April 15, besides being Tax Day, it's going to be the 50th Anniversary of the first day in the 20th century that a black ball player was allowed to play in the Major Leagues, and that man was Jackie Robinson.
The City will proclaim April 15th to be "Jackie Robinson Day". And to honor this great New Yorker, the City and State will rename Interborough Parkway, "Jackie Robinson Parkway". So now when people drive to Shea Stadium from Brooklyn to see the Mets, they'll be reminded of one of baseball's greatest pioneers and one of America's great citizens.
On that same day President Clinton will join thousands and thousands of fortunate children from our city's public schools to celebrate "Jackie Robinson Day" at Shea Stadium. The Mets President Fred Wilpon generously presented the City with free tickets that we turned over to Chancellor Rudy Crew to distribute to the school children of the city. The Mets will be playing Jackie Robinson's old team, the Dodgers.
This event will give young people in our city the opportunity to enjoy a great baseball game, but most importantly, it will give them an opportunity to understand the significance of Jackie Robinson, one of those Americans who stands out in the fight for freedom, equality and dignity. From Gracie Mansion, this is Rudy Giuliani.