Racism has taken deep roots in the nerves of the world, and it isn’t that it just happened. A huge fraction of the world has had it concealed in their darker selves, waiting for the time to unleash the worst of it. Since time immemorial, and with a “Yes, you’re not us” or “He’s black”, or “He’s white” attitude, humans have knowingly or unknowingly learnt to bitter the plight of differences in color. We were so much in a hoard to learn and advance that we forgot that black or white were just colors, and not a parameter to act different. The theme of racism, which still remains valid, has been the sad character of many sports stories.
This post today is to take you on a journey of realization, a journey to tell you to drop off the differences and go head to head with the humankind. Today it is about one of the heroes who managed to break barriers in that country that is supposed to be the paradigm of freedoms, but in which only 50 years ago blacks could not sit in the front of a bus.
Presenting to you- Most interesting facts about Jackie Robinson’s life.
1 Birth and life
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. His second name was put in honor of the American president, who died 25 days before his birth. His grandfather was a slave.
2 Early life
Robinson came to California at a very young age. It was an advanced place and he did not escape the heat of prevailing racism in the United States. The extreme poverty that he faced in his family led him to get into a street band.
3 Early indications of Intolerance towards Racism
As a youth, he showed fierce signs of a youthful anti-racist combat. He was also arrested for insulting a policeman who arrested a black friend of his.
4 Admission to University of California Los Angeles
He managed to go to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). There he excelled in athletics, basketball, tennis, American football and baseball.
5 Joining the Army
Robinson was about to sign up for a professional team but the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Jackie joined the Army.
6 The famous anti-black combat incident
Being stationed in Texas, Robinson starred in a scene that became very famous. It was 1944 and Jackie was about to get on an Army bus. The driver told him to go to the last row, but he refused. After the driver’s warning, the Military Police stopped him and began a process against him. He was falsely accused of being drunk.
7 Entry to the Kansas City Monarchs
Jackie received an offer from a Black League baseball team, the Kansas City Monarchs. Being in the Army, he wrote a letter offering to play with them. Black League was an exclusive competition for blacks and the whites had another.
8 The offer from Branch Rickey
Branch Rickey was the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a conventional league team. He made an offer to Robinson, but asked if he would be able to withstand racist insults without going into the taunts.
Jackie asked “Are you looking for a black player who is afraid to answer?”
“No, I’m looking for a black player who has the guts to not respond,” replied Rickey, who persuaded Robinson to sign for his team.
9 Entry to the Montreal Royals
Montreal Royals belonged to International League (a minor competition). Robinson was ceded to the Montreal Royals, becoming the first black to do so.
10 The Discrimination in Sleeping
On a team trip to Florida, Jackie was made to sleep at the home of a local black politician. The law of that state did not allow Robinson to share a hotel with his team-mates. Robinson was even denied permission to train in his team’s fields and further suspended from entering into parties. These incidents made the Royals cancel a tour of the southern states for having an African American in their ranks.
11 Love from Montreal Fans
Jackie earned the affection of Montreal fans and became an attraction. Until in 1947, Robinson’s parent team- the Brooklyn Dodgers, required their services to play in the professional League.
12 Day of the Debutant
April 15 marks the anniversary of that day when the United States changed. That was the day when Jackie Robinson debuted as the first black player in the Major Leagues. Since then the date is celebrated every year.
13 Rise in internal conflicts
Some of the players from Dodgers refused to sit next to Jackie and of course, to play with him. Leo Durocher, the coach, stopped the rebellion. He said- “I do not care if this guy is yellow or black or if he has stripes like a zebra whore. I am the coach of this team and I say that he plays. What’s more, I tell you, it’s going to make us all rich. And if any of you do not know how to use the money, I will see how they will be transferred.”
14 Problems turned violent
Jackie’s presence created great problem in the League. The Saint Louis Cardinals threatened a strike by Robinson’s presence. They did not carry it out because the League threatened to suspend them. Robinson received some blow during the party. He had to endure how they insulted him from the bench and told him to go pick up cotton.
15 The insulting meeting
Jackie was insulted by the public in a meeting in Cincinnati. His partner Pee Wee Reese stood beside him and wrapped his arm around him. Reese said, “You can hate a man for several reasons, but the color of his skin is not one of them.” Robinson was always at the receiving end for humiliation. Opponents spitted on the slippers, throwers threw him in the face, and fans threw black cats to the field.
16 The first word of encouragement
Veteran Jewish player Hank Greenberg had been abusing his whole life. He approached Jackie in a game between the Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates (Greenberg’s team) and in his ear gave him encouragement: “The best way to fight the insults of the rivals is to beat them in the field.”
17 Upward swing of fame
His fame was growing and he got more and more blacks to the professional league. They dedicated songs and comic book covers to him while he continued receiving insults and death threats.
18 Diagnosis with Diabetes
He retired from baseball in 1956 and was soon diagnosed with diabetes. Robinson continued with his fight against racism.
19 Banking the Blacks
Jackie created a bank to help blacks and a builder to build houses for disadvantaged people. This step invited praises from many, including Martin Luther King. In 1964, Robinson co-founded the Freedom National Bank. It was a black owned and operated bank in Harlem, New York—with businessman Dunbar McLaurin. Robinson served as the bank’s first Chairman. His wife later served as Chairman until 1990 when the bank closed.
20 The fight against son’s addiction
One of his children had drug addiction and he embarked to fight against drug addiction. He barely had time, because just a year after his son’s death, October 24, 1972, Jackie too died in Connecticut. He suffered a heart attack caused by diabetes that had already blinded him. He was 53 years old. His funeral, chaired by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, was attended by 2,500 people.
21 Creation of Jackie Robinson Foundation
After his death, his widow created the Jackie Robinson Foundation. It was dedicated to honor his life and work. The foundation helps young people in need by providing scholarships and mentoring programs.
22 People retire, numbers don’t. But rethink!
No one can ever spot any baseball player wearing the number 42. In 1997, Robinson’s number was retired from the Major League Baseball. This was the first and only time a jersey number had been retired throughout an entire professional sports league.
23 Working for Causes and Legacy
After retiring from baseball, Robinson entered into business and continued his work as an activist for social change. He worked as an executive for the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company and restaurant chain. His work helped in the establishment of an African American-owned and -controlled Freedom Bank. He served on the board of the NAACP until 1967.
24 Not only baseball, a tennis star too.
Jackie was also an accomplished tennis player. He won the junior boys singles championship in the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament.
25 A Family of Players
Jackie’s brother Mack was an expert athlete and a wonderful sprinter. He won a Silver Medal in the 200 meters behind Jesse Owens during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
26 Game Statistics
Jackie won the Rookie of the Year in 1947 with a batting average of .297, 175 hits, 12 home runs, and 48 runs batted in.
27 The only black baseball companion
Jackie Robinson had a close friendship with Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians. Doby was the first African-American baseball player in the American League. The two men broke the color barrier in baseball in the same year and used to talk to each other on the telephone to share their experiences with racism during the season.
28 The “All Star” Star
Jackie was a six time All-Star between the years 1949 to 1954.
29 Jackie forced to testify
In 1949, Robinson was called to testify before the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was subpoenaed because of the comments made about him by prominent African-American actor Paul Robson. At first, Robinson was hesitant to testify, but then was ultimately compelled to do so because he feared not doing so would hurt his baseball career.
30 Acclamation as the Most Valuable Player
The National League’s Most Valuable Player Award went to Robinson in 1949. This happened after his first appearance in the MLB All-Star Game.
31 Personal appearances in movies
Jackie himself played in The Jackie Robinson Story. It was a biopic about his life, and was released in 1950. Robinson’s wife Rachel Robinson was played by the Academy Award nominated female actor Ruby Dee.
32 A deal worth more than the Brooklyn Dodgers contract
Robinson, during the off season, went on vaudeville and a speaking tour of the South. There he would answer pre-set questions about his life. He revealed that he actually made more money on these tours than he did on his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
33 Wrongly reported facts
Robinson played in six World Series, but only won one in 1955 against the New York Yankees in a seven game series. He didn’t play in 49 games that season and missed Game 7; Don Hoak played third base in Robinson’s place.
34 His political stance
Robinson was politically independent, but had conservative views on the Vietnam War. He gave support to Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential election against John F. Kennedy, although Robinson admired Kennedy’s stance on civil rights once he was elected. He was later saddened with Republicans for not supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Soon after, he became a Democrat.
35 Entry into the Hall of Fame
Jackie Robinson was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. It was during his first year of eligibility. He was the first African American who was inducted at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and Museum.
36 Jackie in the Civil Rights Movement
Jackie Robinson was always seen as a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said – “Robinson was a legend and symbol in his own time who challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”
37 Jackie as a Sports Analyst
Robinson was the first African-American who entered into TV sports analysis. He broadcasted for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Weekly telecasts in 1965. Robinson later worked as a part-time commentator for the Montreal Expos in 1972.
38 Glorification of the New York House
Jackie Robinson’s house in Brooklyn, New York, was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976. He lived there while he played for Brooklyn Dodgers.
39 The asteroid named after Jackie Robinson
On March 1, 1981, American astronomer Schelte John Bobby Bus discovered an asteroid at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Bus named the asteroid “4319 Jackierobinson,” after his favorite baseball player.
40 National Honors on Jackie Robinson
President Ronald Reagan awarded Jackie Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award given to a civilian for their contributions to world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors—on March 26, 1984.
41 Entry to the All Century Team
In 1999, Robinson was added to the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Century Team along with Cal Ripken Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb. Fans chose the final selections from a list compiled of the 100 greatest Major League Baseball players from the past century.
42 Career in MLB
Jackie Robinson was one of the best baseball players in the major leagues. He had a career batting average of .311, hit 137 home runs, and had 197 stolen bases. He was also named the All Star team six times and won the National League MVP in 1949.
43 Post-military Life
After discharging from the Army, Robinson returned to his old football club, the Los Angeles Bulldogs. His old friend and pastor Rev. Karl Downs offered him to be the athletic director at Sam Huston College in Austin, and then of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
44 The rise of name and fame
According to a 1947 poll, Robinson was the second most popular man in the country, behind Bing Crosby. In 1999, Time named him on its list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In 1999, he was at number 44 on the Sporting News list of Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. His selection came as he gathered the highest number of votes.
Baseball writer Bill James, in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, ranked Robinson as the 32nd greatest player of all time, on the basis of his performance on the field. He was notably one of the top players in the league throughout his career.
Robinson was also among the 25 charter members of UCLA’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984. In 2002, Molefi Kate Asante included Robinson on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. Robinson was also honored by the United States Postal Service on three separate postage stamps, in 1982, 1999, and 2000.
45 Medals and Honors on his name
Since 2004, the Aflac National High School Baseball Player of the Year has been presenting the “Jackie Robinson Award”. Robinson was also recognized outside baseball. In December 1956, the NAACP recognized him with the Spingarn Medal, which it awards annually for the highest achievement by an African-American.
President Ronald Reagan awarded Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom on March 26, 1984, and on March 2, 2005, President George W. Bush gave Robinson’s widow the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. Robinson was only the second baseball player to receive the award, after Roberto Clemente.