There can never be enough said about #42 Jackie Robinson. Not only was #42 a tremendous baseball talent, Jackie was a man of character and high standards. Yes, Jackie was a great ball player. However, few knew he was a very good football and basketball player also.
Consider Jackie Robinson’s character. Branch Rickey picked the right man at the right time. Major League Baseball is about winning and #42 Jackie Robinson was a winner. He exemplified character on and off the baseball diamond. He was a faithful husband, devoted to the Civil Rights Movement and most respected by white and black America. All MLB teams have retired #42 and on a special day each year all players wear Jackie Robinson’s #42.
READ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JACKIE ROBINSON HERE!
Buck O’Neil was a Negro League baseball star. Buck was in the Army in 1945, stationed in the Philippines, when the news arrived that Jackie Robinson had signed with the Dodgers. O’Neal grabbed a microphone and announced “Branch Rickey has signed Jackie Robinson to an organized baseball contract”. This was a huge historic moment and was the beginning for the Afro-American and the history of America as the Civil Rights Movement had started. America began a new page owning up to its creed. The signing of Jackie Robinson, a black American, and his first day of play, April 15, 1947, for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was a first step for baseball and a first step in desegregation for America. In the post-war World War II era this was a pioneering movement in integration. Baseball confronted the nation with racial bigotry and segregation. This move by Branch Rickey had an earthquake effect on the nation and ballparks in the USA.
Rickey said he was not a “crusader”. He wanted a winning team. By signing Robinson and two other players, catcher Roy Campanella, and pitcher Don Newcome, Rickey produced the most wins of any National League team from 1947 to 1960. Rickey had a vision that was skewed and wanted to win. He knew Jackie was going to be a top-notch player. In the 1940’s he was the best athlete in the US. Jackie was an All-American running back at UCLA and led the PAC-10 in scoring in basketball. He was also a leader in tennis, golf and track.
On October 23, 1945 Robinson signed with Rickey and the Dodgers for a bonus of $3,500. He only played one year of Negro League Ball with the Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey left Robinson know it would be a rough road. He said “I want a player with guts enough not to fight back.” This was very difficult for Jackie as he was adamant about the constitutional rights for blacks. Jackie was engaged in the Civil Rights Movement until his death in 1972. He was 53 years old. Only one time did he think Rickey was crazy about this integration experiment. Rox Barney, a pitcher for the Dodgers, said years later he did not know how Jackie persevered. The things people yelled at him, the pressure and the great expectation were huge issues.
Jackie Robinson #42 prevailed!
Through death threats, racial slurs, and rudeness.
During a minor league spring training game in Jackie’s first year playing for Montreal in 1946, he and another black player were escorted from the stadium by the Sanford, Florida, Chief of Police. He said blacks were not allowed to play there. One minor league manager even offered “free suits” to pitchers who would throw at Robinson.
When Jackie started in 1947 with the Dodgers, outfielder Dixie Walker said he wouldn’t play if Jackie was on the team. A petition was drawn up among the Dodger players. However, star shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, refused to sign the petition and that ended it.
Opening day at Ebbetts Field in 1947 was a great day for Black America and Baseball. However, White America did not share in this Jubilee. Many National League teams had racial prejudice as well. Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman shouted from the dugout that white players would get diseases and sores if touching towels or combs used by Jackie. Some players pointed bats at him as though they were machine guns.
Jackie’s batting average was only .250 the first month. He started hitting and running the bases better after that. It was a lonely start but he became a star early. In June Brooklyn was winning and Robinson was a large draw, actually the largest crowds in all of baseball. He was on the cover of Time Magazine and voted the second most popular person in the US next to Bing Crosby. Jackie led the way for other great black players to come in the future. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks to name a few. By the mid 1950’s there were many black players in the MLB. They have made some tremendous accomplishments over the years.
EBBETTS FIELD BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, APRIL 15, 1947