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Nearly two hours before Wednesday night's game with the Cincinnati Reds, Mike Cameron already was wearing his game jersey with No. 42 on the back. For Cameron, it's never too early to honor Jackie Robinson.

Cameron, like every player in the major leagues, wore No. 42 Wednesday as part of the 62-year anniversary of Robinson's breaking the color barrier in the major leagues when he played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Cameron is one of four African American players for the Brewers , along with Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Bill Hall. Milwaukee also has two black coaches, Willie Randolph and Stan Kyles.

"This is always a special occasion for me," Cameron said. "I'm sure that everybody in Baseball understands the significance of this day and I know that Prince and Rickie and Billy understand that it's because of Jackie Robinson that we have the opportunity to play today.

"Not only did Jackie lay the groundwork for every African American major league player, but he also was significant in the history of this country. Jackie Robinson helped open the door for us to play. The fact that I have an opportunity to go out today and live out my dream is all because of my forefather - Jackie Robinson."

According to a study released Wednesday, the number of African American players in the major leagues increased to 10.2 percent in 2008, the highest percentage since 1995. Baseball hit an all-time low of 8.2 percent in 2007, according to Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.

Cameron is hopeful that upward trend continues.

"There are more African American players coming into the game," he said. "Hopefully, that trend will grow and there will be more players long after I leave this game."

Manager Ken Macha said the arrival of Robinson in the big leagues marked a broadening of the game's horizons that extends beyond just the inclusion of black players.

"I think the national pastime should be proud of the evolution, the way all cultures have been included in this game," Macha said. "We've got Japanese players, we've got Korean players, we've got people from all over the world. We've got the World Baseball Classic. Everybody's interested in the game.

"It's nice when you can say you're a participant in an industry that's all-inclusive. And to celebrate the fact that this was opening day so to speak for that type of treatment of everybody in the world, it's a good thing."

Number crunching

The numbers help tell the story of the Brewers' stumbling start.

The Brewers , 2-6 entering Wednesday's game against the Reds, ranked last in the National League in hitting (.217), 13th in team ERA (6.30) and first in walks allowed (42) and hit batters (7).

The control problems were particularly vexing, especially when experienced by pitchers such as Jeff Suppan and Yovani Gallardo , who have exhibited good control in the past.

Macha said that his team's pitchers had thrown first-pitch strikes to just 154 of the 314 batters they'd faced.

"You need to increase the first-pitch strikes in order to get the hitters to become a little more active, have them put the ball in play or get them to start swinging at balls that are off the zone," Macha said.

Harmon dies

Merle Harmon , the first radio voice of the Brewers , died Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, at age 82. His broadcasting career spanned 45 years, including a stint as the Brewers' play-by-play man from 1970 to '79.

"Merle was a great friend and a wonderful partner in the booth, and the memories he leaves us with will be cherished forever," said Bob Uecker , who partnered with Harmon early in his broadcasting career.

"His dedication to family and broadcasting was second to none and I will always be grateful for the latitude and direction he gave to me as I was entering the profession. My heart goes out to his family and I speak for everyone with the Brewers in saying that this is a very sad day for all of us."

Around the horn

Closer Trevor Hoffman (strained right oblique) threw 40 pitches off the mound in the bullpen as he continues to move closer to a return. He will throw again Saturday with the next step being a simulated game or going to the minors on a rehabilitation assignment. ... Shortstop J.J. Hardy was a last-minute scratch from the lineup because of back stiffness. He was replaced by Craig Counsell.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 17, 2009

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