Nicknames: The Dark Destroyer, The Colored Comet, Jack-Jack, Jackie the Robber, J-RobTeams: Kansas City Monarchs (1945); Brooklyn Dodgers (1947-1956)
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) was the first African American player to play in modern era Major League Baseball. Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia to sharecropper parents. Robinson attended UCLA in 1939, where he lettered in four different sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He won first place in the long jump at the 1940 NCAA Men's Track and Field Championships. Robinson left college without graduating, playing football semi-professionally for the Honolulu Bears and Los Angeles Bulldogs.
The Army drafted Robinson in 1942. Robinson never saw combat because of a racially-motivated court martial that failed to convict him. He left the Army in 1944 as a Lieutenant. He briefly coached the Sam Huston College basketball team before finally beginning his professional baseball career. Joining the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues, Robinson played there for only one year. His success led a number of major league managers to scout him, and on 1946 Robinson arrived in the minor leagues, attending spring training for the Montreal Royals. The manager did not want a black player, but could not get rid of him. A number of Florida cities refused to let him practice there, even DeLand and Jacksonville forcing games to be called off.
Finally, in 1947 Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, brought Robinson to the Major League to play first base. He immediately became the target of violent play and racial epithets, both from his teammates and opposing players. But Robinson's skills spoke from themselves: he played 151 games for the Dodgers that season. He maintained a batting average of .297 and led the league in both sacrifice hits and stolen bases. This phenomenal performance earned him the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award, the first time that the award had been given out. After this year, Robinson switched to being a second baseman.
After breaking the color barrier, a number of other black players joined both the league and the Dodgers, easing some of the hatred Robinson experienced. In 1949, Robinson won the MVP award and started at second base for the All-Star Game. He continued to play with the Dodgers for his entire career, retiring a year after helping win the 1955 World Series. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, on the first ballot of his first year of eligibility. He died of a heart attack in 1972.
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