Jackie Robinson Day and More UCLA Bruins in Baseball

Jackie Robinson changed baseball and changed America 68 years ago today, on April 15, 1947 when by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first African-American to play major league baseball. As has been done in each of the past seven seasons, all players on all teams playing on April 15 will wear Jackie’s number 47 uniform number, which was officially retired from use by any new player in baseball in 1997.

Jackie had been a multi-sport star at UCLA, lettering in baseball, basketball, football, and track. In fact, it was said by people who saw him play, that his best sport was tennis. In 1939, he was one of four black player on UCLA's football team, making it the most most integrated team in college football.

92-year-old Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow (who was also a student at UCLA when they
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met) will participate in ceremonies at Dodgers’ Stadium this evening, and the game will be a national broadcast over ESPN, which means for the first time this season, the 70% of Los Angeles Dodgers’ fans who do not have access to SportsNet LA and Dodgers’ broadcasts, will get to see the game on television. Of course, we’ll be hearing ESPN announcers and NOT Vin Scully.

Over the years, besides Jackie Robinson, UCLA has produced many great major league baseball players. The list over the last three or four decades includes names such as Chris Chambliss, Eric Karros, Troy Glaus, Jeff Conine, Todd Zeile, Tim Leary, Bill Bonham, Matt Young, Bill Haselman, and Eric Byrnes, and while there have not been large numbers of Bruins in the majors in recent years, there are currently six Bruins on major league rosters, Chase Utley, Brandon Crawford, Erik Goeddel, David Huff, and two young pitchers who may well become two of baseball’s very best over the next decade, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.

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At 24 years of age and beginning his third year in the majors after having been the first pick in the 2011 draft, Cole may already be the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting staff. Over parts of two seasons, not much more than the equivalent of one full year, he's started 41 games, going 22-12 with a 3.45 ERA. This year so far, he's made two solid starts, but has not had a decision.

Bauer, also 22 and having been picked number
three in the nation in that that same 2011 draft by Arizona, got a reprieve from the worst organization in baseball by being traded to the Indians after the 2012 season. After eight major league appearances over 2012 and 2013, he started 26 times last season, and while inconsistent, he showed flashes of brilliance, such as on July 13, when he pitched 6-2/3 shutout innings against the White Sox, striking out 12. But, he has had a spectacular start to the 2015 season. In his first start on April 9, he threw six hitless inning, striking out 11, in a 5-1 Cleveland win. He followed that today by not allowing a hit over his first three innings, stretching his hitless inning streak to nine. For the game, he went six innings again, getting credit for a 4-2 win. His season totals are now a 2-0 record, 1.50 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched.

Both Cole and Bauer are hard throwers, with Bauer in the mid 90s topping out around 97, while Cole hits the high 90s, and reportedly has been clocked at 102.

As the greatest Bruin in the majors over the last decade, Chase Utley, sees his career winding down, Cole and Bauer should be the faces of UCLA in the majors for years to come.

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