Apr 12, 2013

Remembering Number 42: Breaking the Color Barrier

Many young people today have no idea of who Jackie Robinson is or what he endured. Some adults know that on Jackie Robinson Day, everyone wears 42, but many don’t know the significance behind it.
As the 2013 baseball season kicks off, the legacy of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player to take the field in the 20th Century, is remembered. Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day will be celebrated this Monday, April 15th. Every player will don Robinson’s number, 42, marking the 64th anniversary of the Hall of Famer breaking baseball’s color barrier.

Robinson was raised in relative poverty by a single mother. His older brother, Matthew Robinson, inspired Jackie to pursue his talent and love for athletics. Matthew won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash—just behind Jesse Owens—at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
 Robinson attended John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College, where he was an excellent athlete and played four sports: football, basketball, track, and baseball. He was named the region's Most Valuable Player in baseball in 1938.
Jackie continued his education at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he became the university's first student to win varsity letters in four sports. In 1941, despite his athletic success, Robinson was forced to leave UCLA just shy of graduation due to financial hardship.

This weekend, 42, a biopic starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, will hit theaters. It will be an opportunity for the nation to revisit it's history and refresh our collective memories of this legendary baseball figure.
’42′ isn’t the first Jackie Robinson film to hit the big screen. Robinson played himself in the 1950 biopic, ‘The Jackie Robinson Story.’ Robinson himself starred in the 1950 biography “The Jackie Robinson Story,” which also details how Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey (played here by a feisty Harrison Ford) had the courage to sign the fleet-footed Negro League player, despite receiving discouragement from around the league and death threats from fans.
Rickey knew there would be difficult times ahead for the young athlete, and made Robinson promise to not fight back when confronted with racism. That’s why Rickey chose him of all the talented black baseball players at the time: He had the skills, but he also had the strength not to fight back. Robinson showed grace in the face of nearly incessant bigotry.
In addition to his cultural impact, Robinson had an exceptional baseball career. Over ten seasons, all but the first of which he played at second base, Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers' 1955 World Championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954, was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Major League Baseball "universally" retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.
Never doubt that Jackie Robinson was a man of great courage.  When the occasion called for a stand, Jackie could be counted on to make a stand. From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He never saw combat, however; Robinson was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp after he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus during training. He was later acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objection to segregation were precursors to the impact Robinson would have in major league baseball.
After baseball, Robinson became active in business and continued his work as an activist for social change. He became vice president of Chock Full O’Nuts in 1957 and served as VP for ten years. He was the first black vice president of a major American corporation. He helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York . He served on the board of the NAACP until 1967 and was the first African-American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1972, the Dodgers retired his uniform number of 42.
In his later years, Robinson continued to lobby for greater integration in sports and was an activist for Civil Rights. He died from heart problems and diabetes complications on October 24, 1972, in Stamford, Connecticut. In recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More