Last modified: April 6, 2017
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Jack Roosevelt Robinson or Jackie Robinson, as he was popularly called, became the first black baseball player to play in the Major League Baseball. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers team. Coming from a poor black family in Georgia and one of the five children of a single mother, Jackie Robinson, at the age of 27, made news by bringing to an end the racial segregation in professional baseball and was admitted to play for the all-white Dodgers team in 1947.
Robinson began his career as a professional baseball player after his discharge from the Army in 1944 when the sport was segregated, with African-Americans and whites playing in separate leagues. It was while he was playing in the ranks of the Negro Leagues that he was identified as an exceptional player by the then Vice President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. Robinson’s debut into the all-white Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 began with the Montreal Royals, which was a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was based in Florida.
Robinson’s mentor, Branch Rickey supported him throughout. He warned Jackie of the problems he would face as the first black player in a white team. He also made him promise not to react aggressively to racial slurs and criticisms. Robinson’s patience and willpower were tested continuously from the objections of his teammates at his inclusion and the jeers from the spectators. His family also received threats. Robinson eventually won over his teammates and the spectators by his sheer grit and talent in baseball. When he left the game, his batting average with the International League was an outstanding 0.349 and his fielding percentage was 0.985.
His life and achievements also added impetus to the then raging Civil Rights Movement and he became a hero and an ideal personality in the eyes of the blacks and whites alike. His entry into the all-white team was made possible by his indomitable spirit, his upright character, and of course his talent in baseball.
Jackie Robinson’s fame does not rest solely on his breaking the segregation issue. He was also an excellent baseball player and contributed to the Dodger’s winning the 1955 World Baseball Championship. His baseball career spanned over ten seasons and he participated in six Baseball World series. There was not a single season of All-Star Games played without his participation between the years 1949 and 1954.
For his efforts and achievements in the game, he has received many awards and accolades such as: the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the Most Valuable Player of the National League in 1949, and was also an inductee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. His Dodger’s jersey number 42 is even now iconic and souvenir businesses make a lot of money selling replicas of his jersey although this number has since been discontinued in the all the Major Leagues in his honour and memory.
The contributions of Jackie Robinson in and out of the baseball diamond were recognised even after his death with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Other than playing baseball brilliantly, he also worked a Major League Baseball analyst on television and founded the Freedom Nationalist Bank.
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