Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play Major League baseball. Jackie bore the brunt of the opponents, fans and even his team mates. But in the end he was so good that he won them all over.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in 1919. Jackie was born in trying circumstances because his father left the family soon after his birth. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that his family was the only black household on the block and it was the age of racial discrimination. In order to get away from all this the Robinson family moved to California and Jackie joined UCLA.
At UCLA Jackie seemed to have a natural preference for sports. He was well known for his prowess in football, baseball, basketball and the track events. He went on to become an officer in World War II. Jackie Robinson was a born athlete and he soon was at the crossroads of which sport to take up as a career. The decision he took at this stage made him the first black Major Leaguer in sixty years. Jackie Robinson went on to become one of the best baseball players of all time.
In 1945, Jackie Robinson impressed Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. Inducting Robinson into the team meant a considerable amount of risk for Rickey because no one had heard of a black baseball player. It was something that was inconceivable for most people. Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. One of the many conditions that he had to agree to was that he would not be allowed to argue because he was black.
The news that a Blackman was playing Major League baseball spread like wildfire throughout the nation. All over the country, blacks were united in their support for Robinson. Special masses were held on match days where the preachers would pray for Jackie Robinson.
Apart from being black another factor that went against Jackie Robinson was that he was 27 years old. It was unusual for someone to make his major league debut at this age. He was famous for not backing down when faced with the most difficult of circumstances. As a lieutenant in the Army he risked a court-martial by refusing to sit in the back of a military bus.
In his first season with the Dodgers, the players made life difficult for Jackie Robinson. A group of Dodger players, led by Dixie Walker, suggested they would strike rather than play alongside Robinson. But the team management told them that Jackie would play and that Dixie and his mates could leave if they wished. Robinson found solace in the company of Pittsburgh Pirate – Hank Greenberg, the first major Jewish baseball star who had experienced anti-Semitic abuse. Jackie Robinson formed a very effective combination with shortstop Pee Wee Reese. Jackie Robinson was named Rookie of the year in 1947.
Robinson was an exceptionally talented and disciplined hitter, with a career average of .317. Jackie Robinson was known as the most aggressive and successful base runner of his era. He consistently disrupted the concentration of pitchers, catchers and middle infielders. Jackie Robinson’s home plate prowess and defensive skills bear testimony to the fact that he was regarded as one of the most intelligent baseball players of any era. It was almost impossible to get Robinson, last man out.
Most of Jackie Robinson’s biggest challenges were off-field. In spite of his sterling performance on the field, his team mates signed a petition to get him off the team. Base runners dug kicked their spiked shoes into his shins and substitutes on the bench exhorted him to carry their bags and drinks. Fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers preferred that the team lose without Robinson than win with him in the team.
Out of the 10 years that Jackie Robinson played baseball; 6 years were spent leading the Brooklyn Dodgers into the World Series. He married Rachel Issum on Feb. 10, 1946. He had 3 children with Rachel: Jackie Jr., Sharon and David. His #42 jersey was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997. He was named the league’s most valuable player in 1949.
In 1957, Jackie Robinson retired from baseball and became a business executive with the NAACP. In 1962, Jackie Robinson was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. Jackie Robinson died at the premature age of 53 in 1972. After his death the Jackie Robinson Foundation was instituted. It provides scholarships to 141 students annually who are sent to more than 60 colleges all over the country.
Jackie Robinson did it all. He scared the pitchers, rattled the fielders broke the batting record books but most importantly he opened the doors for the blacks in Major League Baseball. Baseball was a sport that was run by the Whites and played by the Whites, this had changed forever.