Jackie Robinson Day Celebrated Nationwide
'42' Film Honors Barrier-Breaking Ballplayer, Portrayed by HU Graduate
Stacy M. Brown | 4/17/2013, 9 p.m.
"If you're a baseball fan, you know the story of Jackie Robinson," said Mike Oz, a Yahoo! Sports columnist, who covers several baseball teams including the Washington Nationals.
"But, let's consider, for a second, the people who aren't really baseball fans, the moviegoers, for example, there's a good chance this will be a popular movie, one that extends beyond baseball fans. This is the kind of movie that could get younger audiences more interested in the game," Oz said.
Robinson was born in Cairo, Ga., in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers.
As the only black family residing in their neighborhood, Robinson and his four siblings encountered discrimination on a daily basis.
However, adversity failed to prevent him from excelling in sports and earning a scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Robinson became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports – baseball, basketball, football and track.
In 1941, Robinson was named as an All-American football player, but because of financial problems, he was forced to leave UCLA and enlist in the U.S. Army, where he ultimately progressed to the rank of second lieutenant – which wasn't an easy feat.
Robinson was court-martialed after objecting to incidents of racial discrimination within the Army, but eventually received an honorable discharge.
He played in the Negro Leagues in 1945 before Rickey approached him with an unprecedented opportunity to play for the Dodgers in the majors.
In his first season with the Dodgers, Robinson won the National League's Rookie of the Year after belting 12 home runs, swiping a league-leading 29 bases and hitting .297.
Two years later, he won the league's Most Valuable Player award and a batting title after he hit .342. Over the course of his career, Robinson hit .311 with 1,518 hits, 137 homers, 734 RBI's and 197 stolen bases.
Robinson, who married the former Rachel Isum, was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He died of an apparent heart attack in 1972, leaving behind his wife and two children, Sharon and David Robinson.
Another son, Jackie Robinson Jr., died in an automobile accident a year prior to his father's death.
Robinson's life and legacy continues to be celebrated by athletes in various sports, especially baseball. The sport honors the late baseball icon by celebrating Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 each year.
Robinson broke baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947 when he strode onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to take on the Boston Braves – the team threatened to strike if Robinson played ball. Interestingly enough, 14,000 African Americans showed up to witness history in the making and support the first black ballplayer ever to step on a major league diamond.
Fifty years later, baseball retired Robinson's jersey number, 42, prohibiting any player from ever wearing the number again. Many who already had the number gave it up, despite baseball officials providing the option for some to keep it until they either left their current team or retired.