Imagine watching a Major League Baseball game and not seeing a person of color in either team's lineup.
That was the case until April 15, 1947, seventy-five years ago today. On this day the Brooklyn Dodgers started one Jack Roosevelt Robinson at first base against the Boston Braves, forever shattering racial segregation in Major League Baseball as the first black man to play in the modern era.
Branch Rickey, the Dodgers GM drilled Jackie in a three hour interview before signing him. At the conclusion Jackie asked Rickey, "do you want a negro too scared to fight back?" Rickey replied, "I want a man with guts enough not to fight back."
Jackie was 28 years old in his first game for Brooklyn. He walked once and scored. He had an incredible season and won the 1947 Rookie of the Year. He was a six time all-star. A National League MVP, batting .342. He played in five World Series. He has a .313 career batting average and a .410 on base percentage. He received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961. In 1997 Major League Baseball retired his number 42 for all teams permanently. If you watch a MLB game today you will see every player wearing the number 42 in his honor.
He suffered endless racial slurs, prejudice and threats throughout his career. Fans, opposing managers and players were relentless with their epithets. Daytona Beach, the Dodgers spring training site, threatened to arrest Robinson if he played with white players. Hotels would not accommodate the Dodgers if Robinson was to be a guest. He received mountains of death threat letters. Many of his teammates said they'd rather be traded than play alongside Robinson. The St. Louis Cardinals threatened to strike rather than play against him. Ford Frick, the National League President, had this to say about the Cardinals,
"I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another."
Jackie was the man courageous enough to withstand the endless slurs. He was the man who fought back with only his play on the field. He broke the wheel of racial segregation in baseball. Jackie was a hall of fame player, but his contribution to society makes him one of the bravest men to ever live, if you ask me.
Watch a baseball game today and enjoy the game as it should be played, by anyone talented enough to make a team. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
"The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity."
I don't like very many posts anywhere, because I believe the option is very much overused throughout social media. As a proud American of German and Polish descent, I feel compelled to "like" this post. Especially in these times of divisiveness rooted in social and religious prejudice.
Dammmm...I'm glad he did what had to be done!