Dunn resident and Negro League Hall of Famer reflects on Jackie Robinson Day

DUNN, N.C. (WTVD) -- April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day across the nation. Annually, players, coaches, and managers throughout professional baseball don Robinson's No. 42.

Robinson, of course, made history as the first African American to play in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Dunn resident, Clifford Layton, who was a teen when Robinson broke the color barrier, recalls the significance of what Robinson did for players like him.

"Oh man, it was exciting to watch Jackie," Layton said. "Jackie meant so much to me because he had such a great attitude. And he was showing you within himself, what you're going to be confronted with one day and how you can handle it.

I mean, you got to have a calm spirit because you're going to run against opposition from time to time," Layton continued. "And you gotta know how to handle that. And, we got to teach that to children."

Layton was inspired by Robinson and went on to pitch in the Negro Leagues playing for the Metros in the early 1940s and the Raleigh Tigers in 1949.

"I don't like to talk about my ability to play baseball," Layton said. "But I believe that I was one of the best ballplayers ever to step out on the field. Absolutely. And when I think in terms of Jackie, I used to copy some of his athletic ability. He just had something that other guys just wish they had."

Layton spent four years playing in the Negro Leagues. He was inducted into the Negro League Legends Hall of Fame in 2003.

Robinson's uniform number, 42, was retired across all Major League Baseball teams in 1997. However, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera continued to wear No. 42 until he retired in 2013.
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