The late Jackie Robinson made sporting history, but why exactly did he become famous?
Jackie Robinson was a famous baseball player who broke down a racial barrier. In 1947, he became the MLB’s first black player when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Read more about Jackie Robinson below.
Who was Jackie Robinson?
Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia in 1919 and had five older siblings. His early years were far from lavish, and he was raised by his mother, a single parent.
After the family moved, he attended school in California, where he excelled athletically. He showed promise as a baseball player but was also a skilled football and basketball player.
One of his siblings, Matthew, was also a talented athlete. Matthew had competed in the 200-meter race in the Olympic Games, and he encouraged his younger brother to follow his sporting passions.
After high school, Robinson enrolled in UCLA, winning a scholarship for athletic ability. When he attended the college, he did not disappoint.
He won letters in baseball, track, basketball, and football. Ultimately, though, he never completed his degree studies and left the school in 1941 to manage obligations with his family.
Despite never earning a degree, Robinson was still keen to follow his sporting passion and played football semi-professionally in Hawaii after leaving college. However, when World War II commenced, he was pulled away from sport.
For two years, he served in the US army. In one incident, he refused to move on a bus, thus making a stand against racial segregation.
This act of defiance saw him court-martialed, though he was not punished. He gained attention from black newspapers for his actions.
In his personal life, he had a long-term marriage to wife Rachel, who he met while at UCLA. The couple had three children together.
With racial segregation still in existence, Robinson joined an all-black baseball team after leaving the army.
The Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager, Branch Rickey soon noticed Robinson. Rickey had ambitions to modernize the game by encouraging racial integration.
He invited Robinson into the team, and it’s believed that he warned the young player that despite any abuse he may receive, it was vital that he held back his temper. “I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey told him.
As predicted by the team manager, Robinson did indeed receive racial abuse, but this failed to stop his success on the field. He made his first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, winning Rookie of the Year.
Two years on, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the National League. In 1955, he played for the Dodgers when they won the World series.
He retired from the sport in 1957.
In 1972, Jackie Robinson died aged 53.
The Brooklyn Dodgers retired the number 42 jersey, Robinson’s playing number. In 2013, a movie about his life was released, entitled ‘42’.
After his baseball career came to an end, he remained a passionate advocate of civil rights, calling for an end to discrimination and supporting integration. He vocally supported the political standpoint made at the Mexico City Olympics by athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their firsts as the American anthem played.
Robinson also ventured into business after his retirement, becoming involved in a black-owned bank as well as a construction company. The aim of these was to help address discrimination that people of color often suffered from banks and to create affordable housing solutions.
He also called for baseball to continue to diversify. “I’m going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball,” he said.
Following his death, the Jackie Robinson Foundation was established by Robinson’s wife. “For more than 42 years, the Jackie Robinson Foundation has continued Robinson’s commitment to equal opportunity by addressing the achievement gap in higher education,” the foundation’s site explains.