Image Courtesy of MLB.com
By Zachary Lichter
Friday, April 15, 2022, will mark the 75th Anniversary of when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African American to play in Major League Baseball.
Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. He was raised in Pasadena, California, and would be a star athlete playing baseball, football, and basketball at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). After graduating from UCLA, he would serve in the U.S. Army during World War II but soon got discharged after refusing to move back to the segregated military bus. In 1944, Robinson had his heart set on playing baseball, and so he decided to play for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs. In 1945, Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, invited Robinson to play on the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ minor league team. After Rickey saw what Robinson could do, he decided to move Robinson up and play in the majors.
On April 15, 1947, Robinson made his debut playing first base for the Dodgers. During his nine-year career as a Dodger, he had a .311 batting average, 137 home runs, 734 runs batted in, and 197 stolen bases. In 1947, he won the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. In 1955, he helped the Dodgers win their first World Series against the New York Yankees. In 1962, he became the first African American to get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Ten years later, he would pass away from heart disease and complications from diabetes.
In 1997, fifty years after Robinson broke the color barrier, MLB decided to have all teams retire Robinson’s number 42. The last player to ever wear #42 was the Yankees reliever, Mariano Rivera. No one was ever allowed to wear #42 until April 15, 2004, when Jackie Robinson Day was created. Since 2004, all players wear #42 in his honor as a hero and remember the courage he had in his struggle for equality. Dodger Stadium typically holds a ceremony to honor Robinson’s legacy where they will invite his wife, Rachel, and members of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The Jackie Robinson Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1973 that gives scholarships to people of minority-youths for higher education.
Being that this year is the 75th Anniversary of when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, MLB plans to play a video before every game called Play, Run, Win, Rise, which is created by Eljon Wardally and is narrated by actor and singer Leslie Odom Jr. The video will pay tribute to Robinson’s legacy as a player and a Civil Rights icon and will also highlight the influence that Rachel Robinson had on their family’s legacy, mainly through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The video will be shown on MLB Network, MLB.com, and MLB’s social media page. This year’s logo for Jackie Robinson Day will include Robinson’s signature and an illustration of him hitting a baseball. Players will still wear #42, but #42 will be in Dodger blue this year. The number 42 will appear on patches on jerseys and baseball caps. All of the tributes will honor a man who changed baseball forever.