Breaking the Baseball Color Line
Historical Cluster 5 – Civil Rights
- Jackie Robinson was born January 31, 1919 in Cario, Georgia but soon after moved to Pasadena, California
- At John Muir High School Jackie lettered in 5 varsity sports: Basketball, Baseball, Football, Track, and Tennis. His athletic achievement led to recruiting by several colleges.
- Jackie Robinson enrolled at Pasadena Junior College and continued his athletic success in the four above sports besides Tennis.
- After graduation, he transferred to UCLA and again lettered in four sports, ironically, baseball was his weakest during college.
- At UCLA, he met his future wife Rachel Robinson
- Robinson served in World War II in an all black regiment.
- From 1945-1946 Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the “Negro Leauge”.
- Throughout the 40s Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey was scouting Robinson.
- In 1946 Robinson joined the Montreal Royals.
- On April 15, 1947, Robinson made his major league debut at Ebbets Field before a crowd of 26,623 spectators, including more than 14,000 black patrons. Although he failed to get a base hit, the Dodgers won 5–3.
- Robinson won league MVP in1949.
- In 1955 the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series with Robinson playing a key role in the series.
- Robinson retires after the 1956 season
- Robinson is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
- Jackie Robinson passed away on October 24, 1972 (aged 53).
- In 1997, the MLB retired Robinson’s number across all league teams.
- It is very hard to imagine dealing with the overwhelming abuse Robinson dealt with during his time in the Majors. Racial slurs, threats to family and friends, and even animosity from teammates were just some of the few hardships that were a part of Robinson’s career. It would be extremely difficult to capture the terribleness of these atrocities in a summary, so instead, I decided to present the slightly more positive stand the Brooklyn Dodgers coach took in response to the hate consuming Robinson.
“I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.” ~ Manager Leo Durocher
Robinson’s Activism in Civil Rights
- In college, Robinson was brought up on several charges for acts against whites based on racist behavior. This seems ironic considering the passiveness the pro maintained throughout his career; however, it demonstrates the total contempt Robinson held for Racism of any kind. While in the MLB, and after retirement, Robinson dedicated himself entirely to the fight for equality. He spoke at rallies, participated in marches, advocated openly for black rights, and helped fight for more African-Americans in professional sports leagues. In addition, he helped start the Freedom National Bank, an African-American owned bank based in Harlem.
Relationship with Pee Wee Reese
- One of Robinson notable teammates was Kentucky native Pee Wee Reese. He was a very progressive individual in regards to race and was very welcoming and helpful to Robinson at the beginning of his career. During Robinson’s first road trip, while at pre-game infield practice, Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd.