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04/16/09 12:15 AM ET

Astros welcome team tribute for Jackie

Players happy wearing of No. 42 spreads league-wide

PITTSBURGH -- A year ago, Cecil Cooper and Michael Bourn were the only Astros to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. They were happy to welcome all of their teammates and coaches as everyone who took the field at PNC Park on Wednesday night donned the pioneer's number in tribute.

"I think it's a good thing," Bourn said about extending it to everyone on the Astros and throughout baseball. "There are certain people who get respect at another level. He'll always be remembered. I take pride in it, and I'm grateful to be able to wear that jersey."

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Cooper echoed his center fielder's sentiments. The manager kept his jersey from a year ago and was pleased to do it again to mark the anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947. Perhaps it was because he was in Pittsburgh, but he suggested that baseball consider extending this kind of honor to another pioneer.

"I think it's neat. I think it's good that everybody is wearing it. I think they ought to do it for [No.] 21 as well. Why not?" Cooper said about Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente's number. "I think it's good we're doing it for Jackie, because he meant so much, particulary to minorities. In Roberto's case, I think we ought to do it, too. It'd be great. It makes you proud to wear it."

Reliever LaTroy Hawkins didn't get to wear Robinson's number a year ago. He was on the Yankees's roster then and a certain future Hall of Fame closer named Mariano Rivera, who wears 42 all the time, had dibbs. He was caught by surprise by the day, but was nonetheless honored.

"This is the first time I've been on a team where everybody did it," Hawkins said. "It's cool, though. I didn't even know everybody was doing it today. I thought we'd do it at home."

The Astros will honor Robinson when they return home on Friday as well, but this was the day for Major League Baseball. While Hawkins feels everyone in the big leagues certainly knows Robinson's legacy by now, the impact of seeing all those 42s around baseball can't be anything but a good thing for the next generation of fans.

"That's perfect for young kids," said Hawkins, who had the honor of wearing No. 42 for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. "I was reading that this is the first year that the amount of African-Americans in baseball has risen, the percentage has gone up. That's definitely a great thing. It lets you know they're making strides to not let what Jackie stood for go to waste, and that we can get back to where he would've liked for us to be."

Where they are is something all African-Americans appreciate. It's easy, says Bourn, to not stop and think about it, and a day like this makes everyone take a necessary pause and appreciate everything that's happened since Robinson broke through.

"Without him, none of us would be here," Bourn said. "He took abuse I think none of us will completely understand. Sometimes, we take it for granted. This is a special day in history, and getting to wear that number, it's a real tribute to him."

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