Today is the 65th anniversary that Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball color barrier line. 1947 not only change baseball forever but it became the year that Robinson planted the seeds to the Civil Rights Movements. Jackie was not your ordinary baseball player. He was not your ordinary individual. Jackie Robinson was a gifted athelete and a Godsend; an extraordinary man who made it his life mission to fight for equality and justice.
It has already been chronicle how Jackie Robinson struggle during his first years in Major League Baseball. But, politics aside, Jackie introduced a very exciting way to play the game. His approach to getting on base and stealing bases was very unique. The way he dance on the field when taking his large shuffles down the sidelines was breathtaking. Jackie Robinson’s first year with the Brookly Dodgers was a huge impact. He was awarded the first Rookie of the Year Award, an award the bears his name. Jackie not only helped the Dodgers win the National League Pennant but led them to the World Series against the New York Yankees. The Dodgers lost the series but won a whole country. Many people outside of Brooklyn, especialy African Americans became Dodger fans simply because Jackie Robinson was a Dodger.
Jackie Robinson was an amazing baseball player. A man who won the MVP honors in 1949, someone who played the game with an unbending spirit. A man who was a fierce competitor and ultimately helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955, when he famously stole home plate in Game 1.
As we celebrate Jackie Robinson’s 65th anniversary of breaking baseball color barrier line, let us also be reminded of what a true American Revolutionary he was. Jackie Robinson does not get the recognition that he deserves when people talk about the civil rights movement. Jackie Robinson transcended Sports in America and single handedly open a new chapter in American history. He paved the way to a lot of amazing baseball players but in breaking baseball color barrier line, he also had an impact on atheletes outside of basketball.
Jackie Robinson’s legacy does not begin in 1947. It is a legacy that began early in his life. From being UCLA’s first 4 letter athlete in Baseball, Basketball, Football and Track and Field, to becoming a respected leader in the military for standing up on behalf of African American soldiers who were not being treated fairly, to becoming a famous baseball player in 1947 and ultimately for dedicating his life to the values of justice and equal for all of humanity.
When Jackie Robinson was in the military, he was join by Joe Louis, the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of that erar. During their time together, Joe Louis and Jackie advocated for equal rights of African American soldiers. Jackie Robinson was not just a soldier but a SOU-DIER who refuse to trade his values for tradition. One particular incident in the military demonstrated that. It was July 6, 1944 and Jackie Robinson was riding a military bus when he was asked to sit in the back of the bus and clear that seat for a White soldier. Jackie refuse and because of his refusal he was court martial. It is that incident that I think is one of the first publish stories where an African American refuse to sit in the back of the bus. I like to remind people that before Rosa Park became a global figure, there was an unsung hero by the name of Jackie Robinson who did the same act in 1944.
After retiring from baseball, Jackie played a tremendous role in American politics. He continued to fight for the rights of African-Americans in all sectors. He criticized the New York Yankees for being a team that only hired white people. He protested companies who didn’t hired African-Americans. On August 2, 1963, he joined workers who were picketing the construction site of Downstate Medical Center for allegations that Blacks were being discriminated from the hiring process. Jackie Robinson became great friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK once said, “Jackie Robinson was a legend and a symbol in his own time.” In 1964, he cofounded the Freedom National Bank, a commercial bank owned by African Americans and operated in Harlem, New York. Jackie was not only a cofounder but he served as the bank’s first Chairman of the Board. Jackie also championed for the equal rights in the housing sector. His concern for the racial segregation in the housing sector and the conditions that African American families were living in, inspired Jackie Robinson to start The Jackie Robinson Construction Company in 1970 to construct housing for low imcome families. Jackie Robinson was one of America’s true pioneers during the Civil Rights Movement and people should not forget about that.
During this 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball color barrier line, it is time that Jackie Robinson is not only talked about in the realm of baseball and sports but is introduce to all Americans. Jackie Robinson should have a memorial in Washington DC just the same way MLK and Lincoln have one. April 15th should be a national holiday where America will celebrate Jackie Robinson by engaging in community service. Jackie would not have it any other way.
To me, Jackie Robinson single handedly broke America’s apartheid system and did it with a bat in his hand. America’s past time as Baseball is often referred too was a racist institution that was shattered the moment Robinson stepped into that diamond. Jackie Robinson did a coup d’etat the moment he stepped into home plate for his first at bat. He overthrew a system that many did not see coming, especially in the late 1940s. From that moment on, Jackie started a revolution in the realm of baseball. Unfortunately, that revolution has died down in the past decade as there are few African American players in baseball. While baseball has integrated a lot of latino players, it has not done a lot to get black players into the game. We still don’t see a lot of people of color in ownership and in top executive positions. While there are a few African American managers, MLB needs to do more to diversity its “roster” and that means opening the doors to people of color in top baseball positions. I think Jackie Robinson would steal home plate up in heaven the day an African American becomes the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Americans felt that they would not see a Black President in their lifetime. Baseball fans wonder if they will ever see a Black Baseball Commissioner. I’m still waiting. Jackie is still waiting.
It is my tradition to go to Dodger Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day. Today I will proudly wear my Jackie Robinson jersey. I wear number 42 understanding that I continue Jackie’s legacy of fighting for justice and equality. I owe a tremendous gratitude to Jackie Robinson for the amazing human being that he was.
Jackie Robinson is not only my hero but a source of my inspiration. Jackie Robinson is an American Revolutionary that deserves to have his name being mention outside the realm of Baseball. In my opinion, he is one of many unsung heroes in the Civil Rights Movement. Jackie lived his life fighting for justice and equality. No human being should go through what Jackie Robinson went through. His courage and unbending spirit are like no other. Jackie Robinson lived his life with a purpose. He understood that our lives are to be used to make our world a better place. Jackie is quoted as saying, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Hear is Vin Scully doing a PSA on Jackie Robinson.
Here are two versions of Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? Enjoy both versions.