PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --About 100 children, city leaders and baseball fans -some wearing Jackie Robinson jerseys - gathered in Philadelphia to honor the baseball pioneer in a city where he experienced racism as Major League Baseball's first black player nearly 70 years ago.
The City Council is highlighting an official apology during a ceremony Friday honoring the first black Major League player. Last month, council unanimously adopted a resolution to honor Robinson's achievements and officially apologized for the racism he experienced in the city.
The gathering was at the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park to honor the man who broke color barriers on April 15th, 1947.
"We look at Jackie Robinson as a baseball player, but he was much more than that. He stood up when others didn't stand up," said Donald Smothers of University City.
"He opened a lot of doors for black baseball players here in America," said Marvin Dozier of the High School of the Future Firebirds.
Robinson was told to "go back to the cotton fields" by the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies when the team hosted his Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He was also refused service at a hotel and taunted by players who hurled racial slurs when he came to bat.
City leaders say the apology was long overdue.
"It turns out we were the first city in the country to be able to do that. It reminds that Jackie Robinson was a great man who didn't just live on the ballfield, he lives in American history," said city councilwoman Helen Gym.
It was a tough and embarrassing time in our history but, through Jackie's hardship, came major changes in the world of sports. While no one can speak for Robinson, there is a feeling that if he were here today, he would be happy about how things turned out.
"I bet you every April 15th, Jackie Robinson is up there having a party! He can't believe that his legacy has carried on the way it has," said Phillies spokesman Scott Palmer.
Ballparks around the country, including Citizens Bank Park, are also celebrating Robinson's breakthrough career.