It is common for modern baseball fans to ask why Jackie Robinson is such a famous name in the sport. Not everyone is aware of the history of bigotry and racism Robinson had to deal with throughout his entire baseball career – before, during and after he joined the major leagues. Robinson was the first African-American who played in the MLB, and he was also one of the best second basemen the sport has ever seen. His achievements, which included a batting average of .311, over 1,500 hits and 137 home runs, are impressive enough when you discount his upbringing and the struggles he faced. But when you factor those things into his career, it is clear why Jackie Robinson is a baseball legend.
Robinson grew up in meager surroundings in Cairo, Georgia. His parents were sharecroppers, but they did not stay in Georgia very long. Robinson’s father left them a year after he was born, and the family moved to California to find a new beginning. Robinson’s introduction to baseball came at the John Muir High School, where he started playing sports with his school mates and his brothers. All his friends and family recognized that Jackie Robinson was a special athletic talent – he had something special that none of the other kids possessed when he got on the field. He won awards with his school baseball, basketball, football and track teams.
His Strength and Talent
His sports prowess won him a scholarship to UCLA, where he managed to obtain varsity letters for FOUR different sports: football, track, basketball and baseball. Robinson was an athlete star the likes of which UCLA had never seen before. Unfortunately, the color of his skin meant that racism and bigotry were never far away from Robinson, and he was one of the few black men on those teams at UCLA.
By 1942, Robinson had a commitment to his nation that he was obligated to see through: he was drafted to fight in the World War after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His military career was not without scandal, due to some incidents of racist abuse from his superior officers. However, Robinson was acquitted of any charges that were brought against him, and he eventually received an honorable discharge from the military two years later.
The Birth of a Legend
When Robinson went back to school after the military, the calls began to come from professional baseball teams. And his first professional team was the Kansas City Monarchs, who played in the now defunct Negro Leagues. Through his perseverance and skill, Robinson eventually made his way through the Negro Leagues and Minor Leagues, until he got to the Major League.
He was the first black man to play in the Major League since the color line had been established in 1880, and he drew tens of thousands of black baseball fans to games for the LA Dodgers. Robinson often received racial abuse from opposing players and fans, but he was committed to practicing nonviolent resistance to such antics.
Baseball fans will remember Robinson for his wonderful athletic prowess, and Americans will remember him for his great character and his contributions to the civil rights moments of the time.