"He was an amazing man, and people of color everywhere -- not just African-Americans -- owe him so much," said Washington, who grew up in racially charged New Orleans and went on to play for 10 years in the big leagues.
"He opened so many doors for everyone. The courage, the class that man had -- he was special, man. That guy was special."
What Robinson accomplished as a pioneer, Washington added, somewhat obscured what he accomplished on the field.
"The Dodgers didn't sign him because he was black," Washington said. "They signed him because he was a helluva player. ... I know some of his teammates didn't like the idea of him breaking the color line, but they grew to like him in a hurry because they saw that he was gonna help them win ballgames."
Prior to the game, a video tribute to Robinson was played on the stadium's big screens, and in a ceremony at home plate, two local students were awarded $2,500 scholarship checks in Robinson's honor from Chemical Bank.
Meyer struggling in Sacramento:
A's manager Ken Macha spent some time before Friday's game talking about the early-season success of his young starting pitchers, and he mentioned Dan Meyer's two strong starts.
Oops -- he meant Dan Haren.
"I have Meyer on the brain," Macha said when his mistake was pointed out. "He pitched last night in Sacramento."
Meyer, acquired in the offseason trade that sent Tim Hudson to Atlanta, was inconsistent in Spring Training, earning him a spot on the Triple-A River Cats' roster. And his two starts in Sacramento have been anything but strong.
On Thursday, he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits, including a home run, over five innings. In his first start of the year, he gave up three runs on eight hits, including two homers, in three innings. He's 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA.
"Sounds like he's got some work to do," Macha said.
Sacramento first baseman Dan Johnson, on the other hand, has picked up where he left off last year, when he earned Pacific Coast League MVP honors. Through Thursday, Johnson had three homers and 10 RBIs, both team highs, to go with a .280 batting average.
Also shining so far in the state's capital are reliever Britt Reames (1.13 ERA), starter John Rheinecker (1-0, 1.93 ERA) and outfielders Shawn Garrett (.345 batting average) and Matt Watson (.310 average).
Outfielder Charles Thomas, who started the previous two games in left field, started in right field on Friday. Macha said he liked Thomas' swings this spring against Bartolo Colon, who started for the Angels. ... Saturday brings a day game after a night game, and last year Macha often used those days to get backup catcher Adam Melhuse a start. Starting catcher Jason Kendall, however, doesn't like to rest much. Asked if Melhuse would start on Saturday, Macha said, "I kinda doubt it." ... Shortstop Bobby Crosby said his fractured ribs still hurt when he coughs, and while he's been riding an exercise bike to stay in some kind of cardiovascular shape, he won't be allowed to do baseball drills until he's 100 percent pain free. Washington said he'd need a week to get Crosby ready for game action once he's cleared. ... Asked if this series would serve as a barometer for his young club, Macha said no, adding, "I have looked forward in the schedule, and there is a barometer in the middle of May." The A's have a 12-game stretch against the powerful Yankees and Red Sox from May 6-18.