Yanks to honor Mandela with plaque

Nelson Mandela Plaque
Nelson Mandela Plaque (NY Yankees)

The Yankees will honor the late Nelson Mandela with a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park in ceremonies prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Cubs as part of the Jackie Robinson Day tribute in which all players will don uniform No. 42.

The plaque will celebrate the former South African leader and commemorate his June 21, 1990 visit and address at the Stadium. On that historic day, Yankee Stadium was opened to fans, who were treated to musical performances from Richie Havens, Tracy Chapman, Mighty Sparrow and Judy Collins.

Mandela arrived at the Stadium at the end of the concert, following a day of meeting and addressing New Yorkers in various locations around the city. He spoke to the assembled crowd, then donned a Yankees cap and Yankees jacket and said, “You know who I am. I am a Yankee.” At the time of his appearance, Mandela was just four months removed from having spent 27 years in prison.

Scheduled to be on hand for a late-afternoon press conference at the Stadium were Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine, entertainer-activist Harry Belafonte, Zondwa Mandela (grandson of Nelson Mandela), George Monyemangene (South Africa Consul General), Sharon Robinson (daughter of Jackie Robinson) and Rev. Al Sharpton. Commissioner Bud Selig was to have attended the news conference, but he returned to Milwaukee after the originally scheduled ceremony was postponed due to Tuesday night’s rainout.

The Yankees’ first African-American player was Elston Howard, who made his major-league debut 59 years ago this week. He had 1-for-1 with one run batted in April 14, 1955 in an 8-4 loss at Boston.

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