Today is Major League Baseball’s day of remembrance of Jackie Robinson. Every player that suits up on April 15, the first day back in 1947 Jackie Robinson played in a Major League game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, will wear the number 42. It is a tradition that has spanned 10 years.
In 1997 the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, retired the number ‘42’ in all of baseball. Those that already donned the cherished number on their jersey could keep it, but no new player could choose that number. As I’m sure you are aware, Mariano Rivera was the last player to wear a 42 on his back and he retired at the end of last season.
There are reasons that baseball fans consider Jackie Robinson an iconic hero. There is no denying that he was a great athlete and a fantastic ballplayer. However, he was an even greater man off the field and after baseball.
April 15, 1947- Jack ‘Jackie’ Roosevelt Robinson makes his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers
End of the 1947 stats that won Jackie Robinson Major League Rookie of the Year Award: 125 runs with 175 hits which included 5 triples, 31 doubles and 12 home runs. Robinson also had 48 RBI and 29 stolen bases.
August 29, 1948 Jackie Robinson hit for the cycle – a home run, a triple, a double and a single – in the same game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
1949 Season: Jackie Robinson won National League MVP and National League Batting title with a .342 batting average.
Voted to the All-Star game for six consecutive years (1949, 1950. 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954).
Jackie Robinson was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 with 77.5% of votes.
I couldn’t agree more with my fellow baseball lovers about the great things Jackie Robinson did on the field.
Jackie Robinson had many accomplishments after he retired from baseball in 1957.
OUTSIDE OF BASEBALL:
1957-1964- Jackie Robinson was Vice President of Chock full o’Nuts, making him the first African American VP of a major American corporation.
1957- Robinson became Chairman of the NAACP’s Freedom Fund Drive; he and Franklin Williams raised over $1 million the first year which was also the first year the NAACP had ever raised $1 million.
1964- Jackie Robinson helped found the black-owned and operated Harlem based Freedom National Bank.
1970- Established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company to build housing for low-income families.
However, I have my own reasons on why I have always looked up to Mr. Robinson and have tried to educate myself on what he and every other non-white player went through and learn how they handled themselves. And now as a mother of a pre-teen son, I try to teach life lessons on how to treat others, be true to yourself, know when to stand up for yourself and have the courage to not fight back.
In his autobiography ‘I Never Had It Made’, Robinson tells how he was taught courage at a young age. After his father left, his mother moved him and all five children to California where she worked long hours to provide for her children. They lived in a predominately white neighborhood where the neighbors would call the police stating that Jackie’s brother was roller skating too loudly. Robinson, known now for keeping his cool in tough situations, remembers these times and that his “mother never lost her composure. She didn’t allow us to go out of our way to antagonize the whites, and she still made it perfectly clear to and to them that she was not at all afraid of them, she wasn’t going anywhere.”
Jackie Robinson showed great restraint and courage during his baseball career, especially the first season where he tormented almost on a daily basis. After watching the movie 42, I can only imagine how horrific it truly was. The composure and discipline he showed when being called terrible things is what I want my son to learn. I want him to know that when people say “be the bigger man by walking way” isn’t just something adults say to kids to annoy them, but to teach them they are a better person because they had enough compassion for the other person and respect for themselves to walk away.
Robinson was taught this lesson by Carl Anderson, a mechanic and one of the few men who influenced his life. In his book Jackie recalls Anderson teaching this life lesson by telling him “It didn’t take guts to follow the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be different.”
Throughout his life, Jackie Robinson stood up for what he believed in. He resigned from the NAACP in 1967 mainly because he disagreed with their old-fashioned ways and not giving the younger people a bigger voice.
He considered himself a liberal Republican and even helped Nixon run for president, though he later stated that it was something he regretted later.
When it was time to be elected into the HOF, Jackie insisted that writers vote for him based on his career performance, not because he would be the first black man ever on a ballot.
In 1969 Jackie Robinson refused to appear in an old-timers game at Yankee Stadium in protest to the lack of minority managers and front office personnel in Major League Baseball. And on October 15, 1972 he made his final public appearance where he threw out the first pitch for game 2 of the World Series and accepted a plaque that honored the 25th Anniversary of his MLB debut and although he was grateful he ended his speech by saying
“I’m going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball.”
These are things I think I love most about Jackie Robinson. He was never afraid, even in poor health and on the greatest stage, to say how he felt. I believe that is why his legacy is not confined to only baseball.
Jackie Robinson was a man of many great accomplishments and contributions to the game we love and to the world, but above all things Jackie Robinson was a great man.