HOUSTON — The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics jointly walked off the field following a moment of silence, draping a Black Lives Matter T-shirt across home plate as they chose not to play Friday night.
The decision came on Jackie Robinson Day across the majors, and in the wake of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, being shot by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.
All players, managers and coaches at Minute Maid Park were wearing No. 42, the jersey number Robinson wore when he broke the major league color barrier in 1947.
A’s shortstop Marcus Semien and Astros catcher Martin Maldonado each placed a No. 42 jersey from their respective teams in the batter’s boxes. Houston starters took their positions, with other players on both sides lining up in front of their dugouts. After a moment of silence, the teams walked back to their clubhouses.
“I’m proud of this generation because in the ’60s, it was mostly African Americans and a few white Americans that stood up, but in this day and age, I’m seeing young people of all nationalities and all religions that are standing up together,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who is Black. “The young people are a voice to be heard in the country, and I’m very, very proud of the young people in this country.”
There have been 11 big league games postponed this week as clubs joined teams in the NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLS in calling off games while protesting social injustice. Major League Baseball let teams decide whether to play or not.
The Astros haven’t played since Tuesday due to Hurricane Laura, making Friday their first opportunity to join the movement.
The Astros and Athletics will play a doubleheader Saturday. The teams will recognize Jackie Robinson Day in the first game.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said his team was informed of the Astros’ decision not to play early in the day.
“I woke up this morning, and I’ve always known the story of Jackie Robinson, but I had a different view today,” Melvin said, referring to how much he is learning about racial injustice. “I was angry today. I was sad. I was all of the above. So I was looking forward to putting this jersey on. I have the utmost respect for No. 42 and his play.”
Melvin said he was “totally supportive” of the Astros’ desire not to play.
“You certainly understand why,” he said.
Melvin and Baker met with the umpires at home plate several minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Oakland starter Chris Bassitt appeared to be going through his pregame routine, ramping up to pitching in the visitors bullpen, but abruptly stopped warming up about 15 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. walked to the right-field bullpen with an orange glove and ball but simply sat on a bench and never warmed up before heading back to the dugout shortly after the national anthem, which was played before the players took the field.
“If we can change one person’s mind, have a conversation that changes one person’s thought process that saves a life, this was worth it to us,” Astros outfielder Michael Brantley said. “As a group, we’ve done a great job talking about it, but these situations that keep coming up have to stop. I think we all feel the same way.”
“We felt like this message was bigger than missing another game to show support for our brothers, not only on our team but across the league as well to let them know we have their backs,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.