WICHITA, Kan. — On the day Jackie Robinson would have turned 105, a Kansas community on Wednesday received a gift from Major League Baseball and its 30 major league teams.
A day after a statue of the Hall of Famer was found burned and in pieces after being stolen from a Wichita park, MLB and its franchises said they would foot the bill for replacing it.
More than $166,000 already has been pledged since a GoFundMe was started to raise funds for a new statue.
The gesture by MLB and the terms was an emotional experience for League 42 founder and executive director Bob Lutz. League 42, which plays its games at McAdams Park in Wichita, derives its name from Robinson’s uniform number during his playing career with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956.
“You pull out a dictionary of emotions ... and I’ve covered them all, starting with disbelief and sadness and literally losing my breath to six days later,” Lutz told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday. “Having hope in humanity and being thankful for the incredible outpouring of support.
“We have this incredible opportunity now in the wake of a disaster, and we’re trying to take advantage of that,” he said.
The statue, which was stolen from McAdams Park, was found approximately seven miles south in Garvey Park in the southern area of the city, the Eagle reported. Pieces of the statue were found in a trash can that was on fire in Garvey Park, according to KWCH-TV.
The Robinson statue was erected in 2021 and is the centerpiece of the Jackie Robinson Pavilion in the park, the television station reported. Approximately roughly 600 children play in the youth baseball league, The Associated Press reported.
The statue, valued at $75,000, was dismantled before it was burned, Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said, according to the Eagle.
In addition to paying for a replacement statue, MLB and the clubs will provide funding to League 42 to support its on-field and academic goals, MLB.com reported.
Jackie Robinson’s oldest surviving son, David Robinson, told KWCH that the theft and vandalism “seems to be a case of just human failure to think, to act with some kind of direction.”
“Jackie Robinson is a figure, renowned in American history for unification, for positive and successful working together,” David Robinson, 71, told the television station. “And so, the element of hatred or desire to destroy didn’t seem to be a possible motive.”
Robinson led the Dodgers to six National League pennants and one World Series title, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He was the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was the league’s MVP two years later. The six-time All-Star was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
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