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Yankees Unveil Tribute To Nelson Mandela At Monument Park

Plaque honoring Nelson Mandela at Yankee Stadium's Monument Park (credit: Getty Images)

Plaque honoring Nelson Mandela at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park (credit: Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Nelson Mandela once famously declared, “I am a Yankee.” Now, just like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, he has been honored with a plaque at Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

The tribute to Mandela was unveiled in a ceremony before Wednesday night’s game against the Cubs.

In June 1990, just four months after he was released from prison, Mandela delivered a rousing speech at the old Yankee Stadium.

As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, Mandela’s plaque bears a simple quote from him: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years by the South African government for fighting against segregation, died in December at age 95.

Wednesday’s ceremony coincided with honoring another civil rights hero, Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Lindo Mandela, Zondwa Mandela, Harry Belafonte, Sharon Robinson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rachel Robinson, wife of the late baseball great Jackie Robinson, pose with a plaque memorializing the Nelson Mandela. (credit: Getty Images)

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Lindo Mandela, Zondwa Mandela, Harry Belafonte, Sharon Robinson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rachel Robinson, wife of the late baseball great Jackie Robinson, pose with a plaque memorializing the Nelson Mandela. (credit: Getty Images)

“Bringing together both the Robinson and Mandela legacies was brilliant,” said Robinson’s daughter, Sharon.

Placing tributes to nonathletes at Monument Park is not unprecedented. The popes who have celebrated Mass at the old stadium are also honored, and 9/11 victims are remembered there.

The Rev. Al Sharpton noted there is a common thread between Mandela and Robinson.

“Because champions are those that not only win the game, but change the game,” he said.

Former Mayor David Dinkins recalled bringing Mandela to New York City for the Yankee Stadium visit and a ticker-tape parade at the Canyon of Heroes.

Dinkins said he was worried the guest bed at Gracie Mansion wouldn’t be long enough, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.

Nelson Mandela after then-NYC Mayor David Dinkins presented him with a Yankees jacket and cup during a concert and rally at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 1990. Mandela told the crowd, "Now you know who I am. I am a Yankee." (Photo by Maria Bastone/AFP/Getty Images)

Nelson Mandela after then-NYC Mayor David Dinkins presented him with a Yankees jacket and cup during a concert and rally at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 1990. Mandela told the crowd, “Now you know who I am. I am a Yankee.” (Photo by Maria Bastone/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

“In my mind, Nelson Mandela was 10 feet tall,” Dinkins said at Wednesday’s ceremony.

Dinkins said the plaque at Yankee Stadium will serve as a fitting reminder of Mandela’s sacrifices and triumphs for generations to come.

“There in Monument Park, a lot of folks will say, ‘Who’s that?’ And they’ll be told, ‘That’s Nelson Mandela.'”

Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela agreed.

“The efforts of today are not for us to reflect or to experience today, they are for the lives to follow, the generations to come,” he said.

Added entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, who was also instrumental in Mandela’s 1990 visit: “We did him honor, and he certainly did all of us a great service about what he brought to us — his humanity and his courage.”

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