Jack Roosevelt Robinson (Jackie) was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia and died on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut. Jackie Robinson is best known for being the first African American baseball player of the modern era, by breaking the color barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson’s debut for the Dodgers in 1947 came a year before President Harry Truman desegregated the military and seven years before the Supreme Court ruled desegregation in public schools was unconstitutional (Schwartz).
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. Robinson played an indirect, but significant role, in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. said that he was “a legend and a symbol in his own time”, and that he “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration” (Robinson; Kerry).
Not only did Robinson impact the American culture by breaking the color barrier, he would also become a Hall of Famer during his ten year career. Robinson was voted as the first ever Rookie of the Year in 1947, which at the time was for the entire league, rather than an American League and National League selection. April 15, 1947, Robinson’s first major-league game: “It was the most eagerly anticipated debut in the annals of the national pastime,” wrote Robert Lipsyte and Pete Levine in Idols of the Game. It represented both the dream and the fear of equal opportunity, and it would change forever the complexion of the game and the attitudes of Americans” (Schwartz). In 1987, the Rookie of the Year award was formally named the Jackie Robinson award. In his ten seasons with the Dodgers, the team played in six World Series, winning the 1955 pennant. Robinson was a six time All-Star, who was voted the National League Most Valuable Player in 1949. Robinson had such an impact on Major League Baseball that his number 42 was retired throughout the majors on April 15, 1997; fifty years after he broke the color barrier.
At the time his number was retired league wide, any player who was wearing the number was allowed to continue to wear it; Mariano Rivera is the only player still wearing 42. The first Jackie Robinson Day was observed on April 15, 2004, a historical start to an annual tradition throughout Major League Baseball and an inspirational reminder about what happened on that day exactly fifty-seven years earlier, when one baseball player took the field and changed the world (Baseball-Reference).
I don’t understand why Bud Selig decided to retire Robinson’s number on the fiftieth anniversary, yet it took another seven years to formally recognize April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day. In 2007, Ken Griffey Jr. asked for permission to wear number 42 during Jackie Robinson Day. “If it weren’t for Jackie Robinson, I wouldn’t be able to put on the uniform I’m wearing today,” Griffey said. “He should be an inspiration not only to baseball players but to anyone who fights prejudice and hatred” (MLB. om). In addition to Griffey wearing number 42, Bud Selig allowed any other player who wanted to wear the number wear it too. In 2007 and 2008 several hundred players, from different races, decided to wear Jackie Robinson’s number 42. It wasn’t until 2009 where every player on every team would wear number 42 to honor Jackie. Although Robinson only played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was honored by the New York Mets by naming the front entrance of Citi Field the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
Schwartz, Larry http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016431.html
Robinson, Rachel; Kerry, John