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Entire team to honor pioneer

Entire team to wear No. 42

NEW YORK -- No. 42 will be all over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, as the Phillies and Astros plan a tribute for the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League debut.

Both teams are planning to wear Robinson's No. 42 as part of a league-wide celebration to honor the date when Robinson shattered the color barrier.

"That's going to be a cool day," Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson said. "I'm going to be honored to wear that number."

For Thompson, the digits will allow him to remember weekend summer trips down Interstate 95. Stopping in places from North Carolina to New York, Thompson's father, Wilbert Thompson, played on barnstorming teams against Negro Leaguers.

Milt and his six siblings would watch and cheer, and hear the stories about a less fair time in baseball. Even as recent as the late '70s, Thompson remembers when, as a rookie in the Appalachian League, he inquired about an apartment in Kingsport, Tenn. He knocked on the door and left a message with a neighbor when no one answered.

The next day the sign was gone, and Thompson ended up staying in a hotel for $10 a day.

"The bottom line is, when you talk about some of the players today, most don't know all the information, and what Jackie went through," Thompson said. "It's important to remember."

Commissioner Bud Selig often says that the most significant moment in baseball history occurred when Robinson broke the color barrier, because of the social impact it had on the country. The Phillies are planning a special tribute.

The organization will salute African-American pioneers who opened doors for others. The four living members of the Philadelphia Stars -- Bill Cash, Mahlon Duckett, Stanley Glenn and Harold Gould -- will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The Stars team played from 1934-50 and won the 1934 Negro National League pennant.

The tribute also will include an appearance by the Tuskegee Airmen, who made history by enlisting to become America's first black military airmen during World War II in 1941. Shorstop Jimmy Rollins will also take part in the ceremony.

"This is a great opportunity to honor a historic person," Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We're proud to take part."

Amaro brings another perspective to Robinson's legacy. A player of Cuban decent, Amaro grew up around the sport and heard stories of prejudice from his father, who played from 1958-69.

"There are many," Amaro said. "He had to go through a lot of things in the Minors. In the Texas League, he couldn't eat at a lot of the restaurants or stay at some of the same hotels. As a Latin American player who was very dark skinned, he had to go through those things, too. There are some of the greatest Latin American players who didn't get a chance to play in the States."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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