Most people know Jackie Robinson as the man who famously broke baseball’s color barrier when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, but what else do you know about Jackie Robinson?
Born on January 31, 1919, into a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia, Robinson’s mother moved the family to Pasadena, California in 1920. Robinson excelled at a variety of sports in high school including baseball, track, football, basketball and tennis. At UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track.
Robinson also served two years in the army and had progressed to second lieutenant but his army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to an incident where Robinson refused to sit in the back of a bus. In the end, Jackie left the Army with an honorable discharge.
In 1945, Robinson went on to play one season for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Baseball League. It didn’t take long for Robinson’s career to take a historic turn, as Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Robinson in 1947 about playing for the Dodgers in the major leagues.
The impact of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line transcended sports and would become an inspiration for the future Civil Rights Movement. In addition to his exceptional skills on the field, Robinson was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement and attended the March on Washington in 1963.
At the end of Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he had become the Rookie of the Year with 12 homers, a league-leading 29 steals, and a .297 average.
Over ten seasons in the majors, Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954 and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949 — the first black player so honored. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams.
Jacki Robinson passed away in 1972. His wife Rachel continues to carry on Jackie’s legacy through the Jackie Robinson Foundation.