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Jackie Robinson

By

Jackie Robinson photo

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues in 1947.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Updated April 11, 2013

Vital Statistics:

Born: Jan. 31, 1919

Died: Oct. 24, 1972

Hometown: Cairo, Ga.

Height: 5-11

Weight: 195 pounds

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Family: Wife, Rachel; son, Jackie Jr.; daughter, Sharon; son, David.

Primary position: Second base

Before The Bigs:

  • Moved to Pasadena, Calif., as a young child. Older brother Mack Robinson was second to Jesse Owens in the 200-yard dash in the 1936 Olympics.
  • Became the first four-letter winner at UCLA, playing baseball, football, basketball and track. Considered one of the best running backs in the country as a halfback in 1939 and 1940, he was the West Coast Conference MVP in basketball and the national champion in the long jump. In baseball, he batted .097 in the one year he played as UCLA's shortstop.
  • Left UCLA just shy of graduation and took a job as an assistant atletic director with the National Youth Administration.
  • Played football for the semipro Honolulu Bears in 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1943. Was court-martialed for refusing to move to the back of a military bus while serving in Texas. Eventually acquitted by an all-white pantel of nine officers. Given an honorable discharge, and never saw combat action.
  • Was the athletic director of Sam Huston College in Austin, Texas, after his discharge, then joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. Played 47 games at shortstop, hitting .387 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases, and appeared in the 1945 Negro League All-Star Game.
  • His play attracted the attention of Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey, who subjected Robinson to a three-hour interview to determine if Robinson had the guts to not fight back despite racial abuse and become the first black player in the major leagues. He agreed to a contract for $600 per month to play for the minor league Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top farm team. In 1946, he led the International League with a .349 batting average, a .985 fielding percentage and was named the league's MVP.

Career Highlights:

  • The most historically significant player in baseball history, he was the first black man to play in the major leagues in the 20th century, and was also the first black Rookie of the Year, All-Star, MVP and Hall of Fame selection. His popularity helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. One of the greats in Dodgers history and one of the top second basemen of all-time.
  • Called up to the majors in 1947, he became the Dodgers' first baseman and made his big-league debut at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947 at age 28. Enduring racial slurs and abuse from fans and opposing players, Robinson played in 151 games and hit .297 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI and a National League-best 29 stolen bases in 1947. Was chosen the inaugural Rookie of the Year and was fifth in MVP voting. Batted .259 in the World Series, a seven-game loss to the New York Yankees.
  • Moved to second base in 1948.
  • Won the National League batting title and was voted NL MVP in 1949, when he hit .342 with 16 home runs, 124 RBI and a league-best 37 stolen bases. However, the Dodgers again lost to the Yankees in the World Series, this time in five games. Also was elected by fans as the starter at second base in the 1949 All-Star Game. Made the All-Star team for each of the next five seasons as well.
  • Batted .328 in 1950 and .338 with a career-high 18 home runs in 1951, a total he matched in 1952, when he led the National League in on-base percentage at .440.
  • Moving around to playing several positions, including third base and left field, he still led the Dodgers to a pennant in 1953, batting .329 and scoring 109 runs.
  • Had his worst year statistically in 1955, when he hit .256 as a third baseman and outfielder at age 37. The Dodgers won their first World Series, beating the Yankees in seven games. Robinson, however, did not play in Game 7.
  • Stole home 19 times in his career. One of his most famous was in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, when he slid under the tag of Yogi Berra.
  • Retired after the 1956 season at age 37, when he hit .275 with 10 home runs in 117 games.
  • The Dodgers won pennants in six of his 10 seasons.

Off the field:

  • Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1962, getting 77.5 percent of the vote. Robinson and Bob Feller were the first to be first-ballot Hall of Famers since Lou Gehrig in 1939.
  • Was vice president for personnel at Chock Full O'Nuts from 1957 to 1964.
  • Served on the NAACP board and was active in politics. At first a backer of Republicans, he changed his party affiliation to the Democrats after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was opposed by conservative Republicans.
  • Played himself in "The Jackie Robinson Story," a film biography of his life, in 1950.
  • The Rookie of the Year award was named in his honor in 1987.
  • His No. 42 was retired by the Dodgers in 1972, a few months before his death. Major League Baseball retired the No. 42 from circulation in 1997, allowing players to wear the number only on Jackie Robinson Day each year, which is April 15. Players who previously wore No. 42 were allowed to continue. The final player wearing that number was New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, who said he will retire following the 2013 season.
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