Today is the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking major league baseball's color barrier. It was on April 15 in 1947 at Ebbets Field that Robinson debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of Robinson, clubs playing at home on Sunday, April 15th will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day with special pregame ceremonies and all MLB field players, managers and coaches will wear jersey No. 42, a number that was retired in 1997 across all major league teams. (The only remaining 42 in baseball belongs to famed Yankee's closer, Mariano Rivera and he will be the last to wear the number.)
Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American baseball player who became the first black Major League Baseball (MLB) player of the modern era. As the first black man to play in the major leagues since the 1880s, he was instrumental in bringing an end to racial segregation in professional baseball, which had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades. The example of his character and unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly, to the Civil Rights Movement.
Not only is Robinson remembered as an incredibly talented baseball player but as an amazingly strong and resilient human being. He took more abuse from fans, opposing teams, and even coaches, than most of us will ever understand. Everything from racial slurs, hate mail, exclusion at his own bench and even threats of violence.
While it's no surprise the type of adversity that Robinson endured, what is surprising is the grace and self-respect with which he would handle it. The Brooklyn second baseman responded with line drives, stolen bases and perseverance. Robinson was and still is one of the greatest baseball players to ever step to the plate. He paved the way to end segregation in baseball but more importantly, he was a beacon of hope to African-Americans all over the United States.
How did Robinson's milestone impact other major league baseball teams? Red Sox Fan Kayla, who blogs at Off The Monster, is on her way to Fenway and has this to say about her favorite team.
The Red Sox in particular have cause to reflect on Jackie Robinson today, because they were the last MLB team to integrate, when Pumpsie Green debuted in July of 1959, TWELVE YEARS after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. The Sox remained a notoriously racist organization far beyond Green's tenure on the team, and this fact was a big part of some terrible Red Sox teams - even when the Red Sox were ready to bring in African-American and Latin players, said players wanted nothing to do with an organization with that kind of reputation.
Of course, the Red Sox aren't discriminating against non-white ballplayers these days, but it's important to understand the scarred history of the franchise, because it all led up to today.
What many people don't realize is that three years before Robinson became baseball's first African-American player, he already was into social justice. "On July 6, 1944, for instance, he was Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks, when he refused to move to the back of an Army bus while serving in the military. He was court-martialed, but he was acquitted by an all-white jury. This can't be stressed enough, and it hasn't been: Robinson's act of defiance on behalf of integration occurred 11 years before Parks refused to move from the front of that bus in Montgomery, Ala."
Since it's founding in 1973, the year after his death, the Jackie Robinson Foundation has provided $55 Million towards "the advancement of higher education among under served populations".
Today, the son of a family of sharecroppers is celebrated throughout the sports world and beyond. Happy Jackie Robinson Day.
dare to dream
More from entertainment