Denzel Washington Pays Tribute to Jackie Robinson During Surprise Appearance at MLB All-Star Game

Denzel Washington at MLB All-Star Game
Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Denzel Washington surprised baseball fans when he took to home plate at Dodgers Stadium to pay tribute to the iconic Jackie Robinson, 75 years after the trailblazing athlete broke baseball's color barrier.

On Tuesday, the Academy Award winner donned Robinson's number 42 jersey to kick off the big game by honoring the baseball icon's legacy. 

"Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, 1947," Washington began, noting when Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. "When Jackie Robinson stepped onto a Major League Baseball field for the first time, armed with supreme talent and unshakable character and wearing a Dodgers uniform, he changed the game of baseball and so much more."

Washington praised Robinson's activities both on the field and off, saying that he "challenged us to become better versions of ourselves."

"Business leader, family man, activist, Hall of Famer," the Presidential Medal of Honor recipient continued. "He said that life is not a spectator sport, and he lived that motto to the fullest. Number 42 blazed a trail that would light the way for people from every walk of life and every color and to this very day … that profound impact looms just as large today as it did 75 years ago."

Robinson integrated baseball on April 15, 1947 and the MLB has celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on that date since 2004. The athlete was awarded the inaugural Rookie of the Year award in 1947, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and had his jersey officially retired in 1997.

Tuesday also marked the 100th birthday of Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, and Dodgers star Mookie Betts led the crowd in a "Happy birthday" chant to the centenarian.

Meanwhile, Washington's appearance at the All-Star Game at Dodgers Stadium -- which was the first time the stadium hosted the game in 40 years -- was a welcome surprise after the actor missed the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony that took place at the White House on Thursday. ET learned the honoree did not attend because he tested positive for COVID-19.

President Joe Biden addressed the actor's absence during the ceremony in the East Room. 

"There’s a man who couldn’t be here today but wanted to be: Denzel Washington, one of our greatest actors in American history. Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Tony Awards, (and) wide acclaim from audiences and peers around the world," Biden said. "He couldn’t be here with us today, but I’ll be giving him this award at a later date when he’s able to get here," the president explained. 

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honor and is handed out once a year. In addition to Washington, there were 16 other recipients, including Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe, late Sen. John McCain, Sister Simone Campbell and Diane Nash, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 


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