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Jackie Robinson: The Man, Legend, and Overcomer

Highlighting the importance of Jackie Robinson Day

By Mark Wesley PritchardPublished about a month ago 4 min read

April 15, 2024 will mark the 77th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in Major League Baseball. Robinson, who was 28 years old at the time, broke the color barrier. The color barrier, or color line as it was called, barred African American players from playing in the Majors and Minors. This ban was in place for 60 years until 1947. So who was this second baseman and why his legacy still has an impact on Major League Baseball today?

Who Was Jackie Robinson?

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. Even though he played football, basketball, and track and field, baseball would later become his true passion. Robinson had an ultimate dream: playing baseball in the Majors. He started his baseball career in the Negro Leagues by signing with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. During his tenure, Robinson played 47 games, hitting .387 with five home runs, and 13 stolen bases at shortstop. On April 11, 1947, Robinson made his debut for the Dodgers wearing the number 42 in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. Four days later, he would make his Major League debut at Ebbets Field. Robinson walked and scored a run in a 5-3 Dodgers victory. His debut drew mixed reactions and some of his Dodgers teammates said they would rather sit out of a game than play alongside him. Despite being met with racial epithets, Robinson refused to give in to the taunting. The Brooklyn Dodgers won the National League pennant in 1947 to face the Yankees in the World Series, making Robinson the first black player to play in the Fall Classic. This was also the first time the World Series was televised. Unfortunately, the Dodgers lost the series four games to three. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series against the New York Yankees four games to three.

Jackie Robinson retired from baseball in 1957 at the age of 37. After his baseball career concluded, Robinson became a television analyst for ABC's Major League Baseball Game of the Week broadcasts, served as Vice President for Chock full O'Nuts, and served as the Chairman of the Board for Freedom National Bank, a black-owned and operated commercial bank, which he founded alongside Harlem businessman Dunbar McLaurin. In 1962, Robinson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with almost 78% of the votes. Sadly, Robinson passed away of a heart attack on October 24, 1972 from complications of heart disease and diabetes at the age of 53.

Jackie Robinson Day Celebrated in Major League Baseball

Half a century after Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier, then Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bud Selig retired his number 42 from across all 30 teams in 1997. Robinson was the first athlete from any sport to be honored. On April 15, 2004, MLB adopted an annual tradition, Jackie Robinson Day, where all teams and players would wear the number 42 to celebrate a legendary player who overcame the odds and made a tremendous impact on the game.

Portrayals on stage, film, and television

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42

Back in 2013, I watched the movie 42, which highlighted the life and career of Jackie Robinson. The iconic Dodgers player was portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman. I won't spoil the entire movie, but I would recommend everyone to go see it, because it'll be worth your time. According to the site Box Office Mojo, 42 is the second highest grossing baseball movie of all time, earning $95 million. The top honor belongs to A League of Their Own, which grossed over $107 million. One interesting fact about Chadwick Boseman is that seven years after starring in the movie, he passed away on Jackie Robinson Day 2020 after privately battling colon cancer for four years.

Reasons Why I Wear The Number 42

Me cosplaying as Jackie Robinson (March 2024)

Jackie Robinson is my overall baseball hero, because had he not stood up for what he believed in, black players like Hank Aaron, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, and Ken Griffey, Jr. wouldn't exist today. Robinson opened doors for not only other black baseball players, but for players of other minorities. He was more than a just a baseball player. He was a pioneer and cultural icon who made a difference in the lives of Major League Baseball players and MLB itself. Jackie Robinson will always be a legend and why was he so great, you ask? If you looked at his MLB statistics and honors, they proved that he's still relevant today and it's significant that current and future generations learn about him. Black baseball players like Robinson need to be taught in schools. So why do I wear the number 42? It's because of his perseverance and being a positive influence on everyone. I may not be a Dodgers fan, but I am a fan of Jackie Robinson and will always be.

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About the Creator

Mark Wesley Pritchard

Award-winning cosplayer, cosplay model, influencer, retro gaming fanatic, die-hard Texas Rangers fan, and nostalgic freak. Need I say more?

Threads: @thecosplayerfromtexas

Instagram: @thecosplayerfromtexas

TikTok: @thecosplayerfromtexas

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