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NEW YORK AWAITS ROBINSON TRIBUTE : PRESIDENT WILL LEAD MIDGAME CELEBRATION.

Byline: Kevin Acee Daily News Staff Writer

Tom Lasorda was on the radio here the other day imploring parents to take their children to Shea Stadium on Tuesday for the Jackie Robinson celebration. Let the youngsters learn, Lasorda said, that Robinson's legacy is about so much more than baseball.

To that end, Tuesday's game between the Dodgers and Mets will be stopped after the fifth inning for a half-hour ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier. President Clinton and Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, will speak.

``Doing it in the middle of the game lends a special flair that it's not a usual night,'' said Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz. ``Its not very often they stop a game.''

Dodgers executive vice president Fred Claire agreed.

``In this case, it's justified,'' he said. ``It is unusual, but the event is unusual and it deserves that type of attention.''

Rachel Robinson attended pregame ceremonies honoring her husband April 5 at Dodger Stadium. Although she had many requests to attend home openers saluting Jackie Robinson, Rachel Robinson only made two. The Shea Stadium celebration represents a return to the city where her husband played with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947-57.

``Baseball has done a wonderful job promoting the anniversary and it will be a great night in New York,'' she said. ``It is where Jack's life in big-league baseball began.''

Players involved in trying to win the game have feelings that run more like this:

``That's the way it's going to happen,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said, shrugging. ``So both teams have to deal with it.''

The players it will affect the most are the starting pitchers, who presumably will still be in the game when it is halted. Dodgers manager Bill Russell said the situation is workable, comparing it to a rain delay or an inning in which the Dodgers scored a lot of runs.

``He'll just have to stay warm, stay ready,'' Russell said of Ismael Valdes, the Dodgers starter Tuesday.

While Russell and pitching coach Dave Wallace will wait until the ceremony is over to decide what course to take with Valdes, the Mets and Shea Stadium officials have been working for a week on plans to accommodate the extra media and security.

The Mets have issued close to 700 credentials for the game, including those for the White House press contingent. They have held several meetings regarding where to seat everyone and what parts of the stadium will have restricted access due to the president's presence.

Horwitz said all the plans were not finalized as of Sunday evening, and he was not sure how the extra security measures would affect the teams' movement.

``I've been asked not to comment on anything to do with security,'' Horwitz said. He did say the Secret Service arrived to prepare Shea late last week.

Russell, for one, plans to get the president's autograph. But for Wayne Kirby, this is old hat. Clinton threw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Baltimore when Kirby was with the Cleveland Indians.

``Why would I want to meet the president?'' he asked. ``I've already met him.''

Claire knows the preparations have been extensive. Numerous presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to George Bush, have visited Dodger Stadium.

``There's been a long history of Dodgers and presidents,'' he said.

In addition to President Clinton and Rachel Robinson, acting commissioner Bud Selig will attend the game.

As of Sunday, the Mets had sold nearly 30,000 tickets and given away another 14,000. If the weather stays nice, they hope to sell out the 55,777-seat stadium.

Those in attendance will see, in addition to the midgame ceremony, video tributes to Robinson throughout the game. During the ceremony, Clinton will recognize Rachel Robinson with a presidential-achievement award.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: The U.S. Treasury showed a rendering of a gold coin it will mint in Jackie Robinson's honor.

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 14, 1997
Words:653
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