After serving 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela made a special trip as a free man in 1990. Mandela traveled to the United States for his first trip outside of South Africa since his release. Mandela came to the "old" Yankee Stadium on June 21, 1990. On Wednesday the Yankees returned the favor and enshrined the legendary world leader, with a plaque in Monument Park.
Upon his death last year, the Yankees felt that they wanted to honor the man who once graced their shrine, Yankee Stadium, in a special way. During his trip in 1990, Mandela donned a Yankee jacket and hat and said," You know who I am, I am a Yankee." On that fate full day, 24 years ago, the fans broke into a Zulu chant of "Amandala", which translated means "world power." The Yankees felt that honoring Mandela was the right thing to do.
Yankee President, Randy Levine was thrilled that they could honor Mandela. "There's nobody more deserving to be in Monument Park," Levine added. The ceremony which was held between games of the doubleheader on Wednesday, attracted an all-star lineup. Among the celebrities in attendance were; former New York Mayor, David Dinkins, who hosted Mandela upon his visit in 1990. Entertainer Harry Belafonte, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson were all in attendance.
Also taking part in the festivities were Zondwa Mandela, Nelsons' grandson. Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel and his daughter, Sharon, also took part in the celebration. "To bring together the Mandela and Robinson legacies is terrific," Sharon Robinson said. Mayor Dinkins added on the sentiment, "It's so important that (Mandela) be remembered forever. There in Monument Park. A lot of people will say, "Who's that?" That's Nelson Mandela."
Mandela is not the first non-baseball induction in Monument Park. Three Popes have been honored, including; Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The Yankees also honored the victims of 9/11 with a monument on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
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