The Life and Times of Jackie Robinson
When you talk about Jackie Robinson, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that he was the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1947, Robinson made history when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers for their game against the Boston Braves. However, there is more to the life story of Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919 as the youngest of five children in the household. When he was only one year old, his father left the family, and his mother, brothers and sister, moved to Pasadena, California to begin a new life. While being raised in a single parent household, Robinson turned to sports and participated in football, basketball, track and baseball while in high school.
After graduating high school, Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College where he continued to excel in sports. After junior college, he enrolled at UCLA, where he became the first athlete to letter in four sports (baseball, basketball, track and football). Unfortunately, due to financial issues he left school in 1941. However, his early years proved that he was an exceptional athlete and that he was determined to continue to play sports.
After leaving UCLA he played on several semi-professional baseball and football teams. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, he was drafted in the U.S. Army. Due to pressure to abolish segregation in the military, Robinson was one of the first African-Americans to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. However, racial problems still existed and he was involved in an unfortunate bus incident, where he was told to move to the back of the bus, because of his race. When he refused, he was subsequently arrested and nearly thrown out of the miliatary by court martial. However, he was cleared of all charges and finished his career in the military.
After leaving the military, Robinson continued his baseball career, first in the Negro Leagues, where he signed in 1945 to play for the Kansas City Monarchs. While starring in the Negro Leagues he was scouted by Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey was a supporter of allowing Negros to play in the major leagues, and signed Robinson to a minor league contract. He spent the 1946 season playing for the Montreal Royals of the International League (one step below the major leagues). He had an outstanding season in Montreal and was ready for the majors.
Robinson faced many racial slurs during his career in major league baseball, but also had many supporters. However, he faced them with class and never did or said anything to bring shame on him or the Dodger baseball organization. Robinson spent the next ten years in baseball, retiring on January 5, 1957. During the time spent in baseball, Robinson excelled as a player being named to six All Star games, participated in six World Series and had a career .311 batting average. In 1962, he was the first African American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In his after baseball years, Robinson did a substantial amount of work with not for profit organizations including the NAACP. Many of the not for profits Robinson worked with accept any donations, including the ability to donate a car for the charity. He was also one of the first African Americans to be Vice President of a major American Corporation (Chock Full of Nuts coffee) and was active in many political causes. One of his last causes, was promoting an African American as Manager of a major league team. On October 24, 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack in Stamford, Connecticut, as a result of complications from Diabetes. To honor his work, the Jackie Robinson Foundation was established to help non-profit causes. Shortly after his death, Frank Robinson was named the first African American Manager.
Jackie Robinson will be remembered forever as a pioneer on and off the field for African Americans, and he helped break the color barrier in baseball. As an acknowledgement of his accomplishments, Major League Baseball has permanently retired his baseball uniform number (42), and no player on any team can use that number.