The story of Jackie Robinson
I would like to encourage everyone to make an effort to see the movie “42.” It’s the life story of Jackie Robinson, the first black person to shatter the color barrier in major league baseball. You don’t have to be a baseball fan, only an American who is inspired by brave men in history and visionaries who have the guts to make things happen.
Jackie Robinson was born Jan. 31, 1919, in Cairo, Ga., and was the grandson of a slave and the fifth child of a sharecropper who soon deserted his family. He was raised by a single mother and after graduating from high school attended UCLA and lettered in four sports – football, baseball, basketball and track. (Baseball was not his favorite.)
From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp when he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus during training. He later was acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge.
His courage and moral objection to segregation attracted Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Judge Kenesaw Landis, commissioner of baseball for more than 25 years, did all he could to keep baseball a white man’s game. After his death, he was replaced by “Happy” Chandler, a jovial politician from Kentucky.
Few black people thought it would be an improvement until two black sportswriters asked him where he stood on the issue. “I’m for the four freedoms,” Chandler replied. “If a black boy can make in on Okinawa and Guadalcanal, hell, he can make it in baseball.”
Branch Rickey, against the objection of the other 15 baseball owners, decided to bring Jackie into the white man’s game. He told him that he wanted a ballplayer with guts not to fight back.
On April 15, 1947, in Brooklyn, Jackie made history. With more than 26,000 fans and 14,000 of them African Americans, Jackie took the field. Not many men have been abused as much as Robinson was with jeers, death threats and ugly outbursts from fans in every city, including Brooklyn. He soon changed that with his courage, guts and ability, and in 1947, the Sporting News, which opposed baseball’s integration, named him the “Rookie of the Year.”
Jackie went on to be named the National League’s MVP in 1949 and helped the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series.
He died at the age of 53. He is now in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Keep in mind that Major League Baseball with Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson was well ahead of the country. It would be seven years before the United States Supreme Court rejected the notion that separate could ever be truly equal and 18 years before Congress enacted meaningful legislation to protect the basic right of black citizens to vote.
Jackie Robinson, a true American hero, opened the door for many people, including Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
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