NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BP) -- When
the name Jackie Roosevelt Robinson comes up in present day
conversation, many things are said and written. As we all know over six
decades ago, the native of Cairo, Georgia would forever change the face
But in many ways, Jackie was and still is much more than just a
pioneer or a Hall of Fame ballplayer. He was a civil rights activist, a
leading businessman in his community, and a role model in its truest
There have been many things said and written about Jackie over the
last few days looking back at his historic debut and his all too short
life. Today, we try to shed some light on the life of Mr. Robinson.
Some of the next 42 facts you're about read you may already know
about. You will also learn some things about him that you didn't know.
But hopefully, the next few facts will give you a better understanding
of the man and his lasting legacy.
1. Born in Georgia, several prominent players past and present join
Jackie as natives of the Peachtree State. Among the many players from
Georgia include all-time great Frank Thomas, as well as current major leaguers Mike Cameron and Bill Hall.
2. A year after his birth, Jackie's family would move to California.
At John Muir High School, Robinson was a shortstop and catcher in
baseball, a quarterback for football, a guard in basketball, and was
also a member of both the tennis and track squads.
3. Just to show even more of Jackie's athletic versatility, in 1936,
he would win the junior boys' singles championship in the annual Pacific
Coast Negro Tennis Tournament.
4. Before his days at UCLA, Robinson would excel on and off the field
at Pasadena Junior College. He played baseball and football. In 1938,
he was elected to the All-Southland Junior College baseball team and
selected as the region's MVP.
5. His athletic prowess would continue when he transferred to UCLA in
1939. As a student-athlete with the Bruins, Robinson became
the school's first four-sport letterman, playing football, basketball,
track, and baseball.
6. Among some of his honors at UCLA: For two years, Jackie was
the highest scorer in basketball competition in the Pacific Coast
Conference (later to become the Pac-10), a national champion long
jumper, an All-American football halfback, and a varsity baseball
7. One of Jackie's UCLA teammates, QB Kenny Washington, would prove
to be a sports pioneer as well. On March 21, 1946, Washington and Woody
Strode signed with the Los Angeles Rams becoming the NFL's first modern
day African-American players.
8. Robinson would eventually leave college to support his mother, not
many units from a bachelor's degree. In 1941, Jackie played semi-pro
football with the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast League.
9. Jackie's brother, Mack and Robinson's early role model, was a
world-class sprinter. He came in second to Jesse Owens in the 200-yard
dash in the 1936 Olympics. Jackie had previously won the 1940 NCAA
long-jump title. He probably would have gone to the 1940 Olympics if the
war had not canceled them.
10. In 1942, Jackie was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to a
segregated unit in Fort Riley, Kansas, where under existing policy he
could not enter Officer's Candidate School. After protests by several
parties, including heavyweight champ Joe Louis, black men were accepted
for officer training. Eventually, Robinson was commissioned as a
lieutenant in 1943.
11. He held several jobs before and after his time at UCLA and the
military. Robinson worked for a few months as an athletic director in
the National Youth Administration, in Atascadero, California. He
also coached a basketball team at what is now Houston-Tillotson College,
in Austin, Texas.
12. In 1945, Robinson was signed by the Kansas City Monarchs of the
Negro American League. Playing along with future Hall of Famer Satchel
Paige, Jackie earned the salary of $400.00 a month.
13. Before his stint with the Monarchs, Jackie along with fellow
Negro Leaguers Sam Jethro and Marv Williams were given a secret tryout
by the Boston Red Sox. While many from the team's brass were impressed,
neither were signed. That season, Boston was 71-83, seventh in the
14. In his lone season with K.C., Robinson hit .345 while playing
most of the season at shortstop. Jackie was also a starter for the East
squad in the East-West All-Star Classic, however he went hitless in five
15. When Jackie was officially signed on October 23, 1945, he wasn't
the only Negro Leaguer the Dodgers inked that day. Pitcher John "Needle
Nose" Wright was also signed by Brooklyn as well. However, the Homestead
Grays righthander only pitched briefly in the Dodgers' organization. He
would eventually return to the Negro Leagues in 1947.
16. At the time of Robinson's signing, there was plenty of verbal
opposition all around the baseball world. J. Alvin Gardner, president of
the Texas League told the Sporting News', "You'll never see any Negro
players on teams in organized ball in the South, as long as the Jim Crow
laws are in force".
17. Robinson would begin his Dodger career playing for the Montreal
Royals, Brooklyn's top farm team. In his debut on April 18, 1946 in a
crowded Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, Jackie went 4-for-5 including a
three run home run, a solid single, and two bunt singles. He also stole
two bases as the Royals pummeled the hometown Giants 14 -1.
18. On the season, Robinson primarily played second baseman
for Montreal. He finished the year with an International League leading
.349 and stole 40 bases. Jackie also helped lead the Royals to the
Little World Series championship by defeating the Louisville Colonels.
19. To commemorate Robinson's brief time in Canada, a statue of
Jackie was erected outside of Montreal's Olympic Stadium during the 1976
Summer Olympics. A year later, the stadium would become the new home of
the National League's Montreal Expos.
20. When Robinson attended spring training in 1947, he was told he'd
have to learn a new position -- first base. He had spent the majority of
his professional career at either second base or shortstop.
21. During the 1946 season, "Big Ed" Stevens and Howie "Stretch"
Schultz platooned at first for the Dodgers with little success. In 105
games, Stevens hit .242 with 10 homers and 60 RBI. Schultz hit .253 in
90 games with three homers and 27 RBI.
22. When Jackie made his much anticipated debut on April 15, 1947, he
went hitless (0-for-3) with a walk. However, he would score the
game-winning run for Brooklyn on Pete Reiser's seventh inning double.
The Dodgers defeated the Boston Braves and Johnny Sain, 5-3.
23. Said the New York Times of Jackie's debut: "The muscular Negro
minds his own business and shrewdly makes no effort to push himself. He
speaks quietly and intelligently when spoken to and already has made a
24. Two days after his debut, Jackie gets his first major league hit
-- to no ones surprise, a bunt single -- off Boston's Glenn Elliott.
Robinson will bunt 42 times, collecting 19 hits, during the year. Two
games later on April 18th, Jackie connected for his first career homer
off the Giants' Dave Koslo.
25. After going through an 0-for-20 stretch in April, Jackie would
rebound with two separate hitting streaks throughout the 1947
season. Beginning on May 3, Robinson would hit in 14 straight games.
Later in June, Jackie had a 21-game streak, the longest of his career.
26. In 1947, Jackie earned the major-league minimum salary of $5,000,
which was standard for many rookies at the time. That year, he played
in 151 games, hit .297, led the National League in stolen bases and won
the first-ever Rookie Of The Year award. Ironically in 1987, Major
League Baseball renamed the Rookie Of The Year Award, the Jackie
Robinson Award in his honor.
27. During the winter of 1947, the Dodgers dealt second baseman Eddie
Stanky to the Braves, to help clear up their infield crowding. A young
Gil Hodges was then given the first base job, and Jackie was inserted at
28. In 1949, Jackie would have his greatest statistical season and
won the NL's MVP award. Robinson led the league in batting with a .342
clip, and finished in the top three in runs (122), hits (203), doubles,
triples, RBI (124), OBP, and slugging (.528). He paced the league in
steals (37) and helped lead the Dodgers to the pennant.
29. Robinson's 37 steals in 1949 not only led the majors, but it was
also the highest in the National League in 19 years. He stole home 19
times in his career, the most since WWI, and in 1955 (at age 36) became
one of only 12 players to steal home in the World Series.
30. In 1949, Jackie was summoned before the House Un-American
Activities Committee to rebut Paul Robeson's contention that American
blacks would not fight against the Soviet Union because of racism at
home. Ironically, Robeson had once addressed Commissioner Landis and the
team owners on the need for integration in the majors. Robinson later
felt apologetic about his being used against Robeson, and said, "I would
reject such an invitation if offered now."
31. A year after winning the NL MVP, the Dodgers reward Robinson by
signing him to a contract for $35,000. At the time, the deal reportedly
makes Jackie the highest paid Brooklyn player in history.
32. In November of 1952 on a local TV station, Robinson charges that
the New York Yankee management is racist for its failure to bring up a
black player. Yanks' GM George Weiss would deny the allegations. Three
years later, former Negro Leaguer Elston Howard would become the first
black to play for the Yankees.
33. On April 23, 1954 in a game against the Pirates, Robinson
steals second base, third base, then swipes home on the front end of a
triple steal with Gil Hodges and Sandy Amoros At the time, Jackie was
the first National Leaguer to steal his way around the bases in 26 years.
34. On December 13, 1956, the Dodgers traded Robinson to the New York
Giants for pitcher Dick Littlefield and $30,000 cash. Rather than play
for the rival Giants, Jackie refused to report to his new team and
decided to retire.
35. Jackie would become a vice president in the Chock Full O'Nuts
restaurant chain. He also worked with the Harlem YMCA and was made
chairman of the board of the Freedom National Bank. He later became the
head of a construction company that built housing for black families and
was involved in other ventures that stimulated black participation in
36. Robinson also remained very busy in other ventures. He wrote
several autobiographical works, had a weekly newspaper column and radio
show, and after his death was the subject of a Broadway musical, "The
37. In 1962, Jackie along with Bob Feller and Edd Roush are inducted
into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Robinson and Feller make
it on their first year of eligibility.
38. In March of 1965, Robinson is signed as a member of the ABC-TV
baseball broadcast team, becoming the first black to receive a network
position broadcasting baseball. ABC provides the first-ever nationwide
baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis.
39. When Jackie eventually retired from baseball and with their
children in school, Rachel Robinson would return to school and earned a
masters degree in nursing from New York University. She later taught at
Yale University's School of Nursing. Ms. Robinson had earned a nursing
degree at UCLA.
40. In his last public appearance, at the 1972 World Series, Robinson
was still calling for Major League Baseball to hire a black manager.
Since his death, there have been 12 African-American managers in MLB:
Frank Robinson, Larry Doby, Maury Wills, Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, Don
Baylor, Hal McCrae, Davey Lopes, Lloyd McClendon, Willie Randolph, Ron
Washington, and Cecil Cooper.
41. Actress Ruby Dee would portray significant roles in the telling
of Jackie's life story. In the 1950 movie "The Jackie Robinson Movie",
Ms. Dee played his wife, Rachel Robinson. Four decades later, she
portrayed Jackie's mother in the 1990 TV movie, "The Court Martial of
42. Jackie's number 42 was officially retired by the Dodgers on June
4, 1972. The last Dodger to wear No. 42 was right handed pitcher Ray
Lamb, who pitched in 10 games for L.A. in 1969.
Sources:The Baseball Library,
Baseball-Reference.com, The Complete History of Baseball's Negro
Leagues, MLB.com, The Baseball Hall of Fame, The Biographical
Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, The Baseball Page, The
Sporting News', The Jackie Robinson Foundation, The Negro League
Baseball Players Association, the Los Angeles Dodgers, UCLA, The Diamond
Angle, Baseball-Almanac.com, and ESPN.com.
Tony McClean can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org