Born on January 31, 1919, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson eventually grew up to be one of the most amazing athletes the world had ever seen. He attended UCLA and became the first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. After spending two years in the army, Robinson decided to take his baseball career to the next level after being recruited by the Dodgers in 1945. The Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey was determined to end segregation in the MLB, and Robinson initially went on to play with Brooklyn’s minor-league affiliate.
On April 15, 1946, Rickey’s goal of breaking down the color barrier in the MLB started to mobilize. Robinson finally had his chance on the big stage and made his Major League debut with Brooklyn Dodgers becoming the first African American player to ever play in an MLB game. Although the first baseman went 0-for-3 with a run against the Boston Braves, Robinson quickly became a dominant force in the league whether fans and players liked it or not.
From being locked out of ballparks to being denied tryouts early on in his career, racism was always a factor for Robinson during this time. His first season in the majors was anything but a walk through the park in terms of the racism he encountered from his opponents and even some of his teammates as well. Despite the adversity, Robinson was able to stay focused hitting .297 in 151 games played stealing more bases than anyone else in the National League. He was named the 1947 Rookie of the Year, and just two years later was named the NL Most Valuable Player batting .342 with 203 hits, 124 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 1949.
Robinson eventually led the Dodgers to their first World Series victory in 1955 and retired the following year with a career .311 batting average, 1,518 hits and 137 home runs. Through the duration of his career, Robinson broke down seemingly insurmountable barriers and made huge strides for African Americans in all levels of sports.
For those reasons, April 15 is celebrated around stadiums across the country as Jackie Robinson Day. With the number 42 retired in every ballpark, April 15 is a day where every Major Leaguer will proudly wear Robinson’s number to honor the legendary player.
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