Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Jackie Robinson Day
April 15 is recognized by Major League Baseball as Jackie Robinson Day remembering the life of Jackie Robinson . On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play professional baseball.
Jackie was the leader and sparkplug of the Brooklyn Dodgers playing second base. Jackie was welcomed by Brooklyn shortstop Pee Wee Reese,but many fans jeered and some players petitioned to remove Robinson. Jackie received death threats. Jackie became beloved by Brooklyn fans and paved the way for future black and Latino stars such as Roy Campanella, Willie Mays. Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron. Brooklyn won six pennants in the ten years Robinson played at Ebbets Field, but usually Brooklyn lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Brooklyn was known as the “loveable losers.” In 1955, lead by a 36 year old Jackie, Brooklyn finally won its only World Series Championship defeating the Yankees. After the 1956 season Jackie retired from the Dodgers after Brooklyn tried to trade Jackie to the Giants. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was so much more than a baseball player. He was a star athlete at UCLA becoming the first UCLA Bruin to letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. He was a football All American and NCAA broadjump champion. Yet Robinson left UCLA due to financial hardships to play semi-pro football for the Honolulu Bears. During World War Two, Jackie volunteered for the Army and became a second lieutenant. He was court-martialed after refusing to give up his seat on a segragated military bus. Jackie was aquitted and given an honorable discharge. Jackie Robinson was a civil rights activist and community leader seeking “first class citizenship” for all Americans. He was a member of the NAACP and testified before Congress on housing and civil rights. He also played in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs. Jackie Robinson was the first African American elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. He was the head of Human Resouces for the Chock Full of Nuts coffee company.
Today baseball is an international game with professional leagues in Japan, Korea and Italy. Stars from all over the globe come to play in America. The racism that Jackie Robinson endured opened the gates for future generations of ball players. Many of us remember the image of Jackie stealing home in the World Series sliding under the tag of catcher Yogi Berra. Jackie Robinson will always be remembered as one of the “Boys of Summer” along with Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campellna, Duke Snider and others playing in Brooklyn where the players lived and shopped in the same community with their fans. Jackie Robinson passed away too young after his induction to the Hall of Fame. Inscribed on his tombstone at Cyress Hills Cemetery is his motto, “A life is not important, except for the impact it has on other lives.”
Greg Bennett Andrews