Jackie Robinson

Black History Month Profile

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Jackie Robinson

United States Public Domain

United States Public Domain

United States Public Domain

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Jackie Robinson was a civil right activist and the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier during the 20th century,  the highest-paid athlete in the Brooklyn Dodgers history, and he was the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson didn’t let racial discrimination get the best of him, instead, he showed the world how great of a player he was.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. He attended Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College where he excelled at sports like track, football, baseball, and basketball. He was named the Most Valuable Player in baseball in 1938. As he furthered his education to the University of California, Los Angeles, he was the first students to win letters in all four sports at the university. Due to financial issues, Robinson was forced to leave just before graduation. After being kicked out of college, Robinson moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears, but his football season was cut short when World War 2 started.

Robinson served in the U.S Army from 1942 to 1944 serving as a second lieutenant, but never saw combat. In 1944 he was court-martialed for refusing to give up his seat and moving to the back of the bus, with his reputation, efforts from friends, NAACP, and black newspapers who helped shed light on this injustice, thus him receiving an honorable discharge. After he was discharged he began playing professional baseball, which was segregated at the time. He was playing in the Negro League but was chosen by the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey, who wanted to integrate Major League Baseball. Before playing with the Dodgers, Robinson played for the Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Dodgers, in spring of 1946.

As another part of Robinson’s training, Rickie made him promise that he wouldn’t fight back, so Rickie threw racial slurs at Robinson that spectators, teams, and players would throw at him during training. It was a rough start as the players refused to play with Robinson and he and his family received threats. When playing, Robinson didn’t focus on the racial abuse, as he led the Royals to the International League with a batting average of .349 and .985 fielding percentage. He then was promoted to the Dodgers the following season. Playing for the Dodgers, other teams and his own teammates refused to play with Jackie, the players were threatening to be traded to other teams by the manager of the Dodgers, Leo Durocher. There were other people who stood with Robinson with each refusal made by other teams, such as League president Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, and fellow teammate Pee Wee Reese, who wrapped his arm around Robinson as he was harassed by spectators thus creating a legendary act in baseball.

He continued playing with the Dodgers,  leading them to win the World Series in 1955 and helping them win one more national league pennant the following season. In 1956 he was traded to the New York Giants, but never playing for them. He soon retired on January 5, 1957.

In 1962, Robinson became the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Dodgers retired his jersey #42,  the same year he died. To commemorate Jackie Robinson every Major League  Baseball team/player wore his number on April 15th, which is Opening Day and Robinson’s debut in Major League Baseball, A man who broke the color barrier in the MLB.

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