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Who was Jackie Robinson?

Updated on December 2, 2016

Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), American baseball player, who was the first black man to play in the major leagues. His signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 broke major league baseball's color barrier, which had been in effect since 1876.

Early Years

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born near Cairo, Ga., on January 31, 1919. His father died when Jackie was an infant, and his mother moved the family to Pasadena, Calif. He studied at Pasadena Junior College and then won an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. There he excelled in four major sports- football, baseball, basketball, and track. In football in 1938 he led the nation in punt returns; in basketball in 1940 he won a division scoring title. After serving as an officer in the Army in World War II, he joined the Kansas City Monarchs, a black baseball team.

Baseball Career

In October 1945, Robinson signed to play with the Montreal Royals, a Dodger farm team, thus becoming the first black player in organized baseball. Branch Rickey, president of the Dodger organization, impressed upon Robinson the difficulties that lay before him. Robinson, always a fiercely competitive athlete, accepted the challenge. He went on to spark the Royals to the league championship and led the league in batting.

Rickey was now determined that Robinson should play in the majors, and in April 1947 he announced his signing by the Dodgers. Robinson was able to survive the jibes of other players and soon demonstrated his baseball capabilities. For his role in Brooklyn's pennant-winning drive of 1947, he was voted rookie of the year.

In ten seasons with the Dodgers, Robinson's timely hitting, daring base running, and aggressive play helped the team win six pennants and one world series. In 1949, his peak season, he led the league in batting with .342 and in stolen bases with 37, and he was voted its most valuable player. A righthanded hitter, with a career average of .311, he was feared both as a slugger and a bunter. As a base runner, he was a constant threat to steal. Though primarily a second baseman, he filled in at first and third and played left field.

Robinson quit baseball after the 1956 season and engaged in business, political, and civil-rights activities. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He died in Stamford, Conn., on October 24, 1972. His autobiography, I Never Had It Made, written with Alfred Duckett, appeared in 1972.


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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      This is a reminder of my youth. I never saw him because I am not a baseball fan but he was in the news when I grew up in the 1950's.