“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
“The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.”
“There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.”
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
64 years ago today Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. Aside from his tremendous talent, Branch Rickey chose Jackie Robinson to be the first African American to play in the Major Leagues for his intelligence, class, and character.
Both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson knew the type of racism and prejudice Jackie would endure. Through all the hatred and threats he received, Jackie maintained his composure and character. Segregation was so ingrained in everything at the time that even his teammates didn’t want him to play, Claiming they’d rather sit out than play with him. Dodger Manager Leo Durocher told the players “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.”
On the field he was incredible. In 1947, his first year he was named Rookie of the Year, led the National League in stolen bases in 1947 and 1949, led second basemen in double plays 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952, and selected as the National League MVP in 1949. In his 10 years with the Brooklyn Dodgers he led the Dodgers to six World Series and one World Series Championship.
Off the field he was an inspiration. He sent to letters to Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson pressing his concerns for equal rights. He participated in many Civil Rights demonstrations, some alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He serve as Director of Community Activities in 1952 for WNBC and WNBT. He also served on the board of directors for the NAACP from 1957-1967 and established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company in 1970 to build housing for families with low incomes.
I think it’s important to remember and honor Jackie Robinson especially on this anniversary.
Check out I AM 42 to hear from today’s players how Jackie Robinson changed baseball.