A little bit about Jackie
- Born January 31,1919 in Cairo Georgia
- Attended John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College
- Was an athlete from an early age, playing and succeeding in 4 sports. Football, basketball, baseball and track
- Youngest of 5 children
- First African American to play in Major League Baseball
- Served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S army but never saw combat
- Revolutionized the world of professional sports by opening doors to generations of African American players to come
- Led the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first World Series Victory in 1955
- Became a Civil Rights activist after retiring, working with people such as Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for freedom.
- Older brother- Matthew Robinson (Won Silver Medal in 1936 Olympic Games- motivated Jackie to succeed in Athletics from his high school years, college, and in his Professional Baseball career.
- Segregation- The racial barrier that existed during this time was a great motivation for Jackie to put a stop to the injustices that were present. Through his astonishing Baseball career and his role in civil rights activism, Jackie Robinson was able to lay a foundation for the benefit of the African American future in American Society
Baseball Career and Impact
- Lettered in 4 sports at UCLA. Football, Basketball, Track and BASEBALL
- Started off playing in the Negro Leagues like the rest of the African Americans of the time, but was chosen by Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers at the time, to move on to the major leagues.
- Began playing for the Montreal Royals in 1946, top farm team of the Dodgers and made his revolutionary appearance as a true professional on April 15, 1947. This made him the first black player to ever play in Major League Baseball.
- Led International league by putting up a .349 batting average and .985 fielding percentage with the royals, after which he was promoted to the Dodgers.
- Hit 12 home runs, led the National League in stolen bases, was selected rookie of the year and MVP, all in his first year with the Dodgers.
- Stole home 19 times in his whole career, became the highest paid athlete in history of the Dodgers
The Racial Barrier that Motivated Jackie
When Branch Rickey chose Jackie Robinson to play for the Dodgers, it was clear that there was a world of racism that awaited Jackie, and he would have to overcome that to be successful. From the start, Robinson had to adapt to his own team which was scattered with people who did not approve of Jackie being on the team. Branch Rickey made him promise to contain himself through all of the adversity, even in times where fans were incredibly rude and threatened his family. What is truly admiring about Jackie's career, is that the kept his promise to not fight back when he could have easily done so. His goal was too powerful to end it with a decision that would provide relief only for a moment. This unselfishness and determination is what I admire about Jackie Robinson, not his Baseball achievements. This is what defined him and it is what propelled him forward along with the African American community he was carrying on his shoulders.
The racism that Jackie endured made him among the most hated public figures of the time. Jackie was able to use this against the people who intended to hurt him with it and ultimately in his favor. As his maturity continued to show, it began to rub off on the American people. Everyone from his teammates to the fans grew to accept the fact that the color of a person's skin did not stand in the way of success whether it be on or off the field. Jackie Robinson used his talent to prove that the assumptions of the time were wrong and for this reason, his will and courage will continue to be forever unmatched.
Parallels Drawn from Jackie's Impact
Jackie Robinson gained national recognition in 1941 when he became the first athlete in the history of UCLA to earn a letter in four different sports in the same year (football, basketball, track and baseball). Drafted into the Army, he was discharged in 1945 and joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Negro League. That same year, he had a visit from Clyde Sukeforth a Dodger scout who told him that Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey would like to meet with him.
When Robinson traveled to New York City for the meeting he was unaware that he was going to be asked to become the first Black player in major league baseball. The decision to open up "America's favorite pastime" to African-Americans was in no small part due to the contribution they had made to the country's war effort. Happy Chandler, the newly installed Baseball Commissioner, was quoted as saying that: "if they (African-Americans) can fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal (and) in the South Pacific, they can play ball in America." Branch Rickey agreed, but everyone knew that the first Black to break through the color barrier would not only have to be talented enough to play in the majors but strong enough to withstand with dignity the inevitable racial taunts that would be hurled his way. Jackie Robinson was their man.
The meeting took place in Rickey's office on August 28, 1945 and lasted about three hours. Rickey grilled the twenty-six year old Robinson on his resolve and challenged him with racist scenarios that he may have to confront on and off the field. Satisfied with his response, Rickey assigned Robinson to the Montreal Royals - a Dodger farm team - for the 1946 season. Robinson was moved up to the Dodgers at the beginning of the 1947 season.
"Can you do it? Can you do it?"
The account begins as Jackie enters Branch Rickey's office. The Dodger boss sits in a leather swivel chair behind a mammoth walnut desk. After some small talk, Rickey lights up a cigar and gets down to the heart of the interview:
'Are you under contract to the Kansas City Monarchs?'
'No, sir,' Robinson replied quickly. 'We don't have contracts.'
'Do you have any agreements - written or oral - about how long you will play for them?'
'No, sir, none at all. I just work from payday to payday.'
Rickey nodded and his bushy brows mashed into a scowl. He toyed with the ever-present cigar, seeking the right words, 'Do you know why you were brought here?'
'Not exactly. I heard something about a colored team at Ebbets Field. That it?'
'No . . . that isn't it.' Rickey studied the dark face, the half-open mouth, the widened and worried eyes. Then he said, 'You were brought here, Jackie, to play for the Brooklyn organization. Perhaps on Montreal to start with -'
'Me? Play for Montreal?' the player gasped.
Rickey nodded. 'If you can make it, yes. Later on - also if you can make it - you'll have a chance with the Brooklyn Dodgers.' Robinson could only nod at this point.
'I want to win pennants and we need ballplayers!' Rickey whacked the desk. He sketched the efforts and the scope of his two-year search for players of promise. 'Doyou think you can do it? Make good in organized baseball?'
Robinson shifted to relieve his mounting tension.
'If . . . if I got the chance,' he stammered.
'There's more here than just playing, Jackie,' Rickey warned. 'I wish it meant only hits, runs and errors-things you can see in a box score. . . .'
...'Can you do it? Can you do it?' Rickey asked over and over.
Shifting nervously, Robinson looked from Rickey to Sukeforth as they talked of his arms and legs and swing and courage. Did he have the guts to play the game no matter what happened? Rickey pointed out the enormity of the responsibility for all concerned: owners of the club, Rickey, Robinson and all baseball. The opposition would shout insults, come in spikes first, throw at his head.
'Mr. Rickey,' Robinson said, 'they've been throwing at my head for a long time.'
Rickey's voice rose. 'Suppose I'm a player. . . in the heat of an important ball game.' He drew back as if to charge at Robinson. 'Suppose I collide with you at second base. When I get up, I yell, 'You dirty, black son of a -' 'He finished the castigation and added calmly, 'What do you do?'
Robinson blinked. He licked his lips and swallowed.
'Mr. Rickey,' he murmured, 'do you want a ballplayer who's afraid to fight back?'
'I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!' Rickey exclaimed almost savagely. He paced across the floor and returned with finger pointing. 'You've got to do this job with base hits and stolen bases and fielding ground balls, Jackie. Nothing else!'
Branch RickeyHe moved behind his big desk again and faced the cornered Robinson. He posed as a cynical clerk in a southern hotel who not only refused him a room, but cursed him as he did so. What would Robinson do? He posed as a prejudiced sportswriter, ordered to turn in a twisted story, full of bias and racial animosity. How would Robinson answer the sportswriter? He ordered the player from imaginary dining rooms. He jostled him in imaginary hotel lobbies, railroad stations. What would Robinson do?
'Now I'm playing against you in a World Series!" Rickey stormed and removed his jacket for greater freedom. Robinson's hands clenched, trembled from the rising tension. "I'm a hotheaded player. I want to win that game, so I go into you spikes first, but you don't give ground. You stand there and you jab the ball into my ribs and the umpire yells, 'Out!' I flare up - all I see is your face-that black face right on top of me -'
Rickey's bespectacled face, glistening with sweat, was inches from Robinson's at this point. He yelled into the motionless mask, 'So I haul off and punch you right in the cheek!'
An oversized fist swung through the air and barely missed Robinson's face. He blinked, but his head didn't move.
'What do you do?' Rickey roared.
'Mr. Rickey,' he whispered, 'I've got two cheeks. That it?'"
Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball's Color Barrier, 1945," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2005)
Historiography (Response to Secondary Source)
Civil Rights Activism
- What was his cause?- From an early age, Jackie was aware of the negative impact that segregation had on the African American community across the nation. A prime example that infuriated Jackie was the fact that his older brother Mack, Olympic Runner and Silver Medalist who represented the U.S, was only able to find a job as a garbage man when he had arrived home. Jackie's cause for activism was the obvious injustice still present that many did not have the courage to face.
- What motivated him?- The inequality among African Americans and the racial segregation in society as well as the sports world. The desire for change that was so desperately needed in Jackie's time period.
- Jackie became involved with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) both during his baseball career and after he had retired in 1957.
- He gave lectures around the nation to promote racial equality and respect.
- Elected to the NAACP board of directors in 1958, further promoting his idea of equality especially in the south where it was so disputed.
- Opened the doors to the African Americans in the sports world, as well as in any aspect of the nation that only whites had access to before
- Participated in many marches and was a good friend of Martin Luther King whom which he was able to relate with regarding the civil rights movements. He was there for the "I have a dream" speech and the march on Washington with Dr. King, fully supporting the cause.
- Methods used- Jackie's first most notable move on Civil Rights was in 1944 when he was serving in the Army. He refused to give up his seat when the driver ordered him to do so. As a result, he was honorably discharged. During his career he also became a civil rights advocate and openly gave speeches criticizing the racism against the African American people. This was after Branch Rickey had released Jackie from his promise to look the other way when he was presented with such issues. He also founded the first African American owned and operated bank called Freedom Bank.
- Sacrifices- The sacrifices Jackie made were incredible. He was a man of his word and controlled himself for half of his career as he had promised to Branch Rickey. This maturity to do such a thing was what carried Jackie along, and once he began to step into Civil Rights Activism, he was fully prepared and he was able to promote the cause at its full potential. Also, Jackie risked his life and the well being of his family by becoming the first African American in the MLB. With how aggravated the topic of segregation was, Jackie could've easily been assassinated by an extremist against the integration of blacks into society.
If I had the same skills as Jackie i too would obviously use that to play baseball, but I would use my fame to help those in need, especially in times of natural disaster or emergency help. I would want to promote peace and provide education and jobs for the uneducated and the jobless in unprivileged countries and I'd like to further teach them more about God. I would use Jackie's incredible maturity to fight my way through the barriers of negativity that I would encounter along the way as well and use Jackie's desire to speak out to let the world know about the situations of struggle that are happening and how to deal with them.
Gone but Never Forgotten
Jackie Robinson: A Biography – September 1, 1998