Jackie Robinson is best known for breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues during the modern era. His courage and excellence on the field opened the door for the integration of professional sports in America.
Where was Jackie Robinson born?
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His middle name was chosen to honor President Theodore Roosevelt, who died just 25 days before Robinson was born.
When did Jackie Robinson show an interest in sports?
From early childhood, Jackie excelled in sports and showed great interest in competitive games and athletics.
What sports did Jackie Robinson play in high school and college?
In high school, Robinson played basketball, football, baseball and track. He continued his multi-sport athletic career at Pasadena Junior College and then UCLA, where he became the university’s first student-athlete to letter in four sports (football, basketball, track and baseball).
What recognition did Jackie Robinson receive for his college baseball career?
Robinson was one of four black baseball players on the 1939 UCLA Bruins team. He twice led the Bruins in hitting and earned honorable mention on the All-Pacific Coast team.
In Robinson’s final college game in 1940, he went 4-for-4 with two stolen bases and helped UCLA defeat USC and snap an eight-game losing streak against their crosstown rival. The victory earned Robinson the nickname “Jackie Robinson Day” on the UCLA campus.
What career path did Robinson pursue after college?
After college, Robinson pursued a career in professional football. He played briefly with the Los Angeles Bulldogs in the Pacific Coast Football League before the league folded under financial pressures in 1948.
Robinson also worked a series of jobs in California, including a short stint as athletic director at a National Youth Administration facility in Atascadero.
Table 1 – Jackie Robinson’s Early Sports Career
|Los Angeles Bulldogs
Breaking MLB’s color barrier
What barrier did Jackie Robinson break?
In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s 60-year informal color barrier when he signed a contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first African American to play in the major leagues during the modern era.
Why did Branch Rickey choose Robinson?
Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey selected Robinson from a pool of promising black players because he believed Robinson had the courage, determination and restraint to withstand the racial abuse that was expected when integrating the majors.
Rickey warned Robinson that the task would not be easy:
“Jackie, we’ve got no army. There’s virtually nobody on our side. No owner, no umpires, very few newspapermen. And I’m afraid that many fans will be hostile. We’ll be in a tough position. We can win only if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer, a fine gentleman.”
Ultimately, Rickey chose Robinson because he assessed that Robinson had the skills not only to play well, but to win over critics while facing waves of racism.
How did Robinson perform in his rookie season?
Robinson made his MLB debut on April 15, 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Throughout a hostile rookie season facing racism from opposing teams, fans and even his own teammates, Robinson played exceptionally well.
He led the National League in stolen bases, hit 12 home runs, recorded a batting average of .297, and won MLB’s first Rookie of the Year Award. Robinson’s athletic success proved crucial in gaining wider public support for integration.
Table 2 – Jackie Robinson’s MLB Career Stats
What civil rights causes was Robinson involved with after retiring from baseball?
When Robinson retired from baseball in 1956, he became an executive for the Chock Full O’Nuts coffee company and an active supporter of civil rights causes like the NAACP. He served on the boards of the NAACP and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Robinson was also a frequent participant in protests, sit-ins and boycotts during the height of the 1960s civil rights movement. He attended the March on Washington and campaigned heavily for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential race.
What awards and recognition did Robinson receive?
Over his prolific career, Jackie Robinson accumulated many honors and awards, including:
- Rookie of the Year (1947)
- National League MVP (1949)
- World Series Champion (1955)
- 6x All-Star (1949-1954)
- NL Batting Champion (1949)
- MLB Hall of Fame inductee (1962)
- Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously awarded by George W. Bush (2005)
In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of breaking the color barrier, Robinson’s uniform number 42 was retired across all MLB teams. The number remains the only one retired throughout the entire league.
When and how did Jackie Robinson die?
In 1972 at age 53, Robinson died of heart disease and complications from diabetes in Stamford, Connecticut. He was survived by his wife Rachel and three children: Jackie Jr., Sharon and David.
Robinson’s funeral at New York’s Riverside Church overflowed, with over 2,500 mourners in attendance. He was buried in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills Cemetery, next to Walter O’Malley, the former owner who brought him to the Dodgers.
Table 3 -Moments in Jackie Robinson’s Life
|Born in Cairo, Georgia
|Enrolls at John Muir High School
|Drafted by the army
|Signs with Brooklyn Dodgers, breaks MLB color barrier
|NL MVP Award
|Inducted into NAACP Hall of Fame
|Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame
|Dies of heart disease & diabetes complications
|MLB retires #42 across all teams
Jackie Robinson will be remembered for breaking baseball’s entrenched racial barriers and clearing a path toward greater racial justice in America. Robinson courageously withstood torrents of racial slurs and death threats to excel on the field, opening the door for the civil rights movement to progress a decade later.
His number 42 hangs in every MLB stadium, representing the sacrifice and perseverance that allowed America’s pastime to slowly become integrated. Yet beyond baseball, Robinson’s legacy resounds as a heroic figure whose achievements shifted attitudes and enhanced citizenship for African Americans during one of the most consequential eras in U.S. history.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did Jackie Robinson grow up?
Jackie Robinson grew up in Pasadena, California after his mother moved the family there when he was an infant. He lived much of his youth in Pasadena and attended John Muir High School, Pasadena Junior College, and UCLA.
What was Jackie Robinson’s batting stance like?
Jackie Robinson batted right-handed, standing very close to the plate with his feet spread far apart in an open stance. He held his hands high and was known for his quick swing that allowed him to strike pitches on both sides of the plate.
Did Jackie Robinson serve in World War 2?
Yes, Robinson was drafted into the army in 1942 and served as a second lieutenant in the United States during World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1944 after facing court martial charges that were ultimately dropped.
What awards or honors did Jackie Robinson receive after his MLB career?
After retiring from baseball, Jackie Robinson continued to receive many awards and honors for both his iconic baseball career and his civil rights activism. These include the Presidential Medal of Freedom.