June 23, 2024

A day after pieces of a stolen Jackie Robinson statue were found burning in a trash can in Kansas, the Rose Bowl will celebrate the sports and civil rights icon’s 105th birthday Wednesday at his statue outside of the historic venue in Pasadena.

Last week, Robinson’s bronze statue at McAdams Park in Wichita, Kan., was cut off at the ankles and stolen. Police said two people were seen on surveillance video dragging the statue to a truck, which was later recovered by investigators.

On Tuesday morning, burned pieces of the statue were found in the remains of a trash can fire seven miles away in another public recreation area, Garvey Park.

The Rose Bowl told The Times in a statement Wednesday that its statue of Robinson playing football remains under close watch following the incident in Wichita.

“The Rose Bowl Stadium was saddened and angered to learn of the inexcusable act of vandalism to the Jackie Robinson statue in Kansas last week,” the venue said in a statement emailed to The Times. “To date, there have been no incidents, suspicious activity or threats related to the Jackie Robinson statue outside of the Rose Bowl Stadium, but we will continue to work closely with campus security and the Pasadena Police Department to ensure the statue remains secure.”

The Rose Bowl said it will honor Robinson at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by an open house of the stadium.

Robinson grew up in Pasadena and played a number of sports at UCLA. He became the first Black player in modern Major League Baseball history when he signed with the Dodgers in 1947. Numerous monuments and statues honoring Robinson stand in Southern California, including outside Dodger Stadium and on UCLA’s campus.

“We were saddened to learn about this reprehensible act of vandalism,” UCLA said in a statement Wednesday to The Times about the incident in Kansas. “Jackie Robinson is not only one of UCLA’s most notable alumni, but a legend and civil rights icon for the entire nation.”

All that remains of a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson in a Wichita, Kansas, park is his shoes.

All that remains of a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson in a Wichita, Kan., park is the groundbreaking baseball player’s shoes.

(Travis Heying / Associated Press)

UCLA added that there have been no incidents or suspicious activity related to any of the school’s monuments to Robinson, and that those spots, like all areas on campus, are continually monitored for safety.

The Dodgers declined to comment for this story.

Wichita Police Department spokesperson Andrew Ford described the pieces of the statue honoring Robinson as “not salvageable” during a news conference Tuesday.

A statue of baseball legend Jackie Robinson at Wichita's McAdams Park.

A statue of Jackie Robinson was erected in Wichita’s McAdams Park in 2021.

(Mel Gregory / Associated Press)

The police department is leading the investigation of the fire because of the connection with the stolen statue, which also remains under investigation. Ford said that more than 100 people have been interviewed as part of the probe.

“There will be arrests, but we’re going to make sure that when we do, we will have a solid case,” Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said at the news conference Tuesday.

As for the rest of the statue, the Wichita Fire Department said in a statement that those parts “have not been recovered at this time.”

“Station 22 arrived on-scene and extinguished a small residential style trash can that was on fire,” the department said. “During the overhaul process, crews located the dismantled remains of the stolen Jackie Robinson statue.”

League 42, a nonprofit youth baseball organization in Wichita named after Robinson’s jersey number, had the statue installed outside its McAdams Park baseball complex for a reported $75,000 in 2021. The organization intends to erect a new, identical statue honoring Robinson to go in the same spot, as well as increased security around the area. More than $146,000 has been raised online for the cause, with League 42 saying on its GoFundMe page that any extra donations will go toward the group’s operational needs.

“As law enforcement searches for the culprits of this crime, we remain devoted to our mission of providing low-cost baseball and education opportunities for our 600 kids, ages 5-14,” League 42 executive director Bob Lutz said in a statement on the organization’s website. “They are as heartbroken over this theft as any of us and we are determined to replace the statue.”

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