About Jackie Robinson:
Full Name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson
AKA: Jackie Robinson
Date of Birth: January 31, 1919
Place of Birth: Cairo, GA
Date of Death: October 24, 1972
Location of Death: Stamford, CT
Married to: Rachel Isum
Married: February 10, 1946
Children: Jackie, Jr. (died 1971), Sharon, David
Height: 5′, 11″
Weight: 204 lbs.
Debut: April 15, 1947
Playing Years: 1947-1956
Professional Baseball Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. He had a family of sharecroppers. Jerry Robinson, Jackie’s dad, ran out on the family shortly after Jackie’s birth. So, Mallie Robinson, Jackie’s mother, raised five children alone, including Jackie (the youngest). The Robinson family was the only black family in their block, leading to prejudice. However, this prejudice would lead to the strengthening bond of the Robinson family. Despite growing up in a big family that one parent raised, Jackie excelled in all sports early, from marbles to football, golf to baseball. Also, he figured out how to take care of himself in life. Jackie attended John Muir High School. He also attended Pasadena Junior College. In 1938, Jackie was named the region’s MVP in baseball.
Matthew Robinson, Jackie’s older brother, influenced him to pursue his love and talent in the athletic field. Matthew won a silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in the 200-meter dash. He was second to Jesse Owens.
When it came time for college, Jackie decided to attend UCLA, the University of California at Los Angeles. At this university, he became the first student-athlete able to win four varsity letters or awards. These four sports were baseball (of course), basketball (point guard), football, and track (long jumper). Jackie was eventually named part of the All-American team at UCLA in 1941. However, Jackie was forced to leave UCLA shy of graduation because of financial hardships.
Jackie then moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. There, he would play for the Honolulu Bears, a semi-professional football team. However, his season with the Bears was cut short during World War II.
It is hard to believe that such a great baseball player like Jackie Robinson could have come from such a humble beginning.
Service in the Military:
Eventually, after Pearl Harbor, Jackie got drafted into the United States Army. He served from 1942 through 1944 and had progressed enough after two years in the Army to become a second lieutenant. In all his years in the Army, though, he never saw combat. His career, however, was cut short after being court-martialed for not moving to the back of a segregated bus during boot camp training. Ultimately, Jackie would leave the Army with an honorable discharge since he was later dismissed of the charges he received earlier. His courage in refusing to move to the back of the bus was a precursor to what he would do to segregation in baseball.
Playing in the Negro Leagues:
Jackie Robinson began his professional baseball career in 1945. However, baseball was segregated mainly then, with blacks and whites playing in different leagues. So, he played in the Negro Leagues as a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs. He only played one season, however, in the Negro Leagues. That same year, in 1945, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a pure racist, was succeeded at the position of the Major League commissioner by Happy Chandler, someone who was not nearly as racist.
Living a Family Life:
In 1946, Jackie’s year off between the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues, he married Rachel Isum. Jackie met Rachel at UCLA as a nursing student at that college. As an African-American baseball player, Jackie was on display for the whole country to judge. Rachel and the three children they would have (Jackie Jr., Sharon, and David) gave Jackie emotional support and a sense of purpose large enough to keep him going through the challenging years filled with pressure and hate.
Breaking the Color Barrier:
Jackie Robinson might not have known this then, but he had more significant achievements and challenges ahead of him even while playing for the KC Monarchs. Came up to Jackie in 1947 to talk to the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, about possibly joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey chose Jackie because he wanted a man who could stop himself from responding aggressively to the racial challenges that would soon come. The last time the Major Leagues had an African-American on their roster was in 1889, when baseball became segregated. Jackie decided to join the Dodgers, but first, he had to play for the Montreal Royals, the largest farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1946. Because of spring training with the Royals, Jackie moved to Florida. He had a fantastic rookie career with the Royals. In his one year with them, he led the International League with a .985 fielding percentage and a .349 batting average. His outstanding year would eventually lead to a Little World Series title for the Royals and a promotion to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When he finally put on the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform for the first time, he changed the face of segregation in America’s professional sports. He played his debut game for the Dodgers in Ebbets Field, their home field, on April 15, 1947, at first base, making history as the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. Just one year after Jackie’s debut, President Harry Truman eliminated all military segregation. The Supreme Court ruled segregation in all public schools unconstitutional seven years after his debut game. By responding to racial hate and insults with silence, Jackie would earn the respect of his fellow teammates and, eventually, his opposition.
Many claim that the most exciting thing about watching Jackie Robinson play baseball was his fantastic ability to steal bases, even home (19 times). He would be the source of the confident spirit in the Brooklyn Dodgers for ten years, carrying them to six pennants. Everyone was amazed at Jackie’s ability to run, steal, bunt, and hit.
By breaking baseball’s color barrier, Jackie bravely stood against segregation in baseball and all of America.
Life After Baseball:
Jackie Robinson continued to work as a social change activist after his baseball career was over. Later, he would become the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company/restaurant chain executive. Also, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank. He would also serve on the board of the (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) until 1967. In 1972, the Dodgers retired Jackie’s uniform number of 42.
In Jackie’s later years, he would continue to try to influence greater integration in all sports.
Jackie Robinson died in Stamford, Connecticut, on October 24, 1972, due to heart problems and diabetes complications. His wife, Rachel Isum, established the Jackie Robinson Foundation after her husband died. This foundation would be dedicated to honoring Jackie’s fantastic life. The Jackie Robinson Foundation also helps needy young people by giving them scholarships and mentoring programs. In 1997, the entire baseball season was dedicated to Jackie’s 50th anniversary of his debut game. Everyone will remember Jackie’s legacy.
Into the Hall of Fame:
Jackie Robinson was very successful throughout his career in the Major Leagues. As a result of his greatness, he was elevated into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 made Jackie the first African-American to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Dodgers would retire his jersey number, 42, in 1972.
Robinson collapsed in his Stamford, Connecticut, home from a heart attack in the early morning of October 24, 1972, and died shortly after. He was 53 years old.
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