Regardless of whether you are an American or not, you ought to be aware of Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments on and off the baseball field. Here’s a compilation of the same, which speaks volumes about the legend that Jack Roosevelt ‘Jackie’ Robinson was.
Jackie Robinson featured in six Major League Baseball All-Star Games on the trot from 1949 to 1954. He was chosen the Major League Baseball Rookie Player of the Year in 1947 and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1949. His accomplishments on the baseball diamond make him one of the greatest baseball players that the world has ever seen, but that isn’t all that Jack Roosevelt ‘Jackie’ Robinson is known for! More than his baseball accomplishments, Robinson is remembered for ‘breaking the barrier of racial segregation in the field of sports’, which was at its peak back then.
Accomplishments of Jack Roosevelt ‘Jackie’ Robinson
Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo city in Grady County, Georgia. He was named Jack Roosevelt Robinson in the honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who died 25 days before Jack was born. After Jackie’s father died in 1920, the Robinson family shifted to Pasadena, California. In 1935, at the age of 16, Jackie graduated from the Washington Junior High School and joined the John Muir High School (Muir Tech).
Inspired by his older brothers, Mack (silver medalist at the 1936 Summer Olympics) and Frank, Jackie decided to pursue his interest in sports and took active interest in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball, at the varsity level. In course of time, Jackie joined the Pasadena Junior College (PJC) for further education, where his marvelous performance in baseball earned him a place in the All-Southland Junior College Team in 1938. In the same year, he was elected the Most Valuable Player for the region.
On January 25, 1938, Jackie was arrested for voicing his disagreement on the arrest of a black friend by the police―one of the first instances wherein he had to bear the brunt of racial hatred. After graduating from PJC in 1939, he joined the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he continued his stint with various sports. The same year, he joined the UCLA Bruins football team as their fourth black player. In 1941, Jackie left the college and joined the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California as its athletic director. Eventually, when NYA was terminated, he moved to Honolulu and started playing semi-professional football. By the end of the year, Jackie was back in California playing for the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Football League.
His brief stint with the army began when he was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1942. However, in 1944, he was court-martialed for two counts of insubordination when he boarded an army bus and refused to occupy the back seat as directed by the bus driver. Though he was acquitted by the nine-member panel, he was not able to take part in combat action in the World War II because of the court martial. Jackie was eventually transferred to Kentucky, where he served as an athletic coach until he was discharged from service in November 1944.
In 1945, when Jackie Robinson was the athletic director at Sam Huston College in Austin, he got an offer to play in the Negro League for the Kansas City Monarchs. He played 47 games as a shortstop for the Monarchs, in course of which he was also chosen to play in the Negro League All-Star Game in 1945. In August the same year, he was approached by Branch Rickey, the general manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who offered him a contract of $600 per month to play for Brooklyn’s International League farm club, the Montreal Royals. On October 23, 1945, after the contract signing took place, the management made it public that Robinson would play for the Montreal Royals in 1946 season. In what was referred to as ‘The Noble Experiment’, Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player in the International League since the de facto baseball color line had been implemented in the 1880s.
Robinson’s brief stint in the Minor League was perhaps one of the most memorable phase of his life. On March 17, 1946, he made his debut for the Montreal Royals in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Daytona Beach’s City Island Ballpark. Thus, he became the first black player to openly play for a Minor League team since the 1880s. On April 18, 1946, Robinson made his professional debut for the Royals in the season opener against the Jersey City Giants at the Roosevelt Stadium. His amazing performance earned Royals 14 – 1 victory over the Giants. Jackie’s golden run continued for the rest of the season; at the end of which, he had a batting average of .349 and fielding percentage of .985, along with the distinction of being the Most Valuable Player of the League for that season.
The Brooklyn Dodgers’ management took yet another step forward and signed Robinson for the Major League 1947 season. In what was nothing short of one of the golden moments in the history of American sports, Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York on April 15, 1947, in front of an audience of 26,623 people. With this, he became the first black player to openly break the Major League baseball color line. Robinson’s debut got a mixed response from the media and other MLP players. While the racial tension in the Dodger clubhouse was brought to an end with Manager Leo Durocher taking a stand for Robinson, the same in the National League was brought an end with the management stating that those who go on strike would be suspended. After making news―both on and off the field―Robinson ended the 1947 Major League baseball season with 12 home runs, 29 steals (most for that season), batting average of .297 batting average, slugging percentage of .427, and scoring 125 runs.
The racial pressure on Jackie subsided to a great extent with other black players entering Major League Baseball the following season. He went on to win the Most Valuable Player of the league for the next two seasons. In 1950, he earned $35,000 as salary, which was the highest ever in the Dodger clubhouse at that point of time. The year also marked the beginning of Robinson’s short stint with Hollywood, where he played ‘himself’ in a movie based on his life, The Jackie Robinson Story. Three more MVP titles were added to his list of accomplishments over the next three years. Brooklyn Dodgers defeated New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series. Though this was Robinson’s first championship, it was his worst season till date. He finally announced his retirement from baseball on January 5, 1957.
With all these on-field accomplishments, Jackie Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 23, 1962. He became the first black player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York. The list of his off-field achievements though, continued to grow with time. His stint as the Vice President at Chock full o’Nuts from 1957 to 1964 made him the first black person to serve as vice president of a major American corporation. In 1965, he accepted the offer of serving as an analyst for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts and became the first black person to do so.
Whilst going through Jackie Robinson’s biography, you can’t help, but notice that he did a lot, not just for the game, but also for the society. He made his final public appearance on October 15, 1972, when he pitched the ceremonial first pitch before the World Series Game 2. Jack Roosevelt ‘Jackie’ Robinson breathed his last on October 24, 1972, but only after he became one of the few prominent faces of the Civil Rights Movement.