The cinematic life story of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson hits theaters today in the film 42, just a few days shy of April 15’s “Jackie Robinson Day.” In celebration of the barrier-breaking Major Leaguer, we dug up 42 facts about baseball’s iconic #42.
This Southern boy was born in Cairo, Georgia, on Jan. 31, 1919.
Jackie wasn’t always such a straight arrow — he joined a neighborhood gang when his family moved to Pasadena, California, and began acting out. Ultimately, his mentors helped him see the error of his ways.
Go Bruins! UCLA counts Jackie as an alumnus… almost. Financial hardship forced him to drop out shortly before graduation.
Coming from a family of sharecroppers, Jackie was hard-wired for hard work.
Got mail? Jackie was the first Major League Baseball player to grace a U.S. postage stamp.
Jackie met his wife, Rachel Isum, while at UCLA.
Jackie’s number — #42, of course! — was the first one retired for every team by Major League Baseball. The honor occurred 50 years after he became the first African-American major leaguer.
When Jackie won MLB Most Valuable Player in 1949, it was no joke. That year, he led the National League in both batting average and stolen bases, helped the Dodgers win the pennant and was tapped for his first All-Star game.
No lefty here… Jackie batted and threw right-handed.
Jackie owes much of his success to his mom, Mallie, who raised Jackie and his four other siblings singlehandedly.
His athletic prowess wasn’t limited to baseball — he was the first four-sport varsity letter winner in UCLA’s history. His sports? Football, track, basketball and, naturally, baseball.
In 1955, Jackie contributed to the Dodgers winning the World Series.
Batter up! The infielder retired with a career batting average of .311.
Before making it to the big leagues, Jackie played semi-professional ball in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the Honolulu Bears.
Jackie’s middle name is downright presidential — it’s Roosevelt!
Jackie served his country as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1942–1944.
It was during his stint in the Army that Jackie was arrested and, subsequently, court-martialed for taking a stand against segregation on a bus during training.
When Jackie first started playing professional ball in 1944, the popular pastime was still segregated.
His first team in the “Negro League” was the Kansas City Monarchs.
Branch Rickey — played by Harrison Ford in the move 42 — hand-picked Jackie from the Negro Leagues to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, thereby beginning to integrate the Major Leagues.
Jackie and his wife Rachel bore three children: Jackie Jr., Sharon and David.
Jackie first hit the field in 1946 with the all-white Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s farm team.
Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson! April 15, the date Jackie played his inaugural game for the Dodgers, has since been declared Jackie Robinson Day.
It was the first time an African-American had ever played in the major leagues.
By the close of Jackie’s first season, he’d already racked up the title of National League Rookie of the Year.
At the time of Jackie’s debut in the Majors, #42 was 27 years old.
Who’s laughing now? When Jackie first began playing, he suffered harassment from spectators and even his teammates.
Not to mention the competition! Ben Chapman, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, joined his team’s players in yelling derogatory terms at Jackie.
Hey, not all managers gave the sport a bad name! Dodgers’ manager Leo Durocher remained steadfastly loyal to Jackie throughout his career.
In a gesture of kindness now famed in baseball’s storied past, Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Jackie in a show of solidarity when fans were harassing #42.
A lucky dozen, indeed! Jackie hit 12 home runs in his very first year in the major leagues.
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball? That popular song could also have been titled, “Did you see Jackie Robinson steal that base?” The speedster set a league record with 19 career stolen bases.
Jackie was the precursor for today’s big-ticket baseballers: During his heyday, he became the Dodgers’ highest-paid athlete in the franchise’s history.
A civil rights activist, Jackie filled his time with much more than baseball. He spoke out openly against discrimination— including calling out the Yankees for being all-white years after he broke the color barrier.
Jackie played in the Major League from 1947–1956.
No ifs, and, or nuts about it: The American hero most definitely went to work as an executive for Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company after retiring from baseball.
In 1962, Jackie enjoyed another first — becoming the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jackie’s legacy lives on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation started by his wife, Rachel, to help provide scholarships and mentoring to youths in need.
Sibling rivalry, anyone? Jackie wasn’t the only athlete in his family — brother Matthew won silver in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
In his career, Jackie racked up 1,518 hits and a whopping 137 home runs.
Jackie formed a special bond with a rival player — Pittsburgh Pirates’ Hank Greenberg. The two related to each other over their shared struggles — Hank, the first major Jewish major league player, suffered anti-Semitic abuse.
An inspiration to this day, Jackie believed in making his life count. He is famously quoted as saying, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”