Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919. Today Major League Baseball (MLB) took the unprecedented step of declaring a full year celebration of his birth. Throughout the year activities are planned to honor him.
While it is noted, Robinson’s fame was created as the first African-American player to break to color-barrier in MLB, his life spanned a career as a great humanitarian.
In 1947 history marked Robinson’s entry in joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey is noted as a trailblazer who bucked the racial codes of the time while shepherding Robinson through the rigors needed to perform at a top level. Rickey and the Dodgers earned their platitudes in history by having the courage to deal with Jim Crow. Many who understand the game and who have an appreciation of history understand the move had more to do with the economic uplift of MLB versus the benevolence of integrating the game.
Like most African-American baseball players of the time they were part of the Negro League organization. The league was extremely popular among the African-American population who showed their appreciation with solid attendance. The style of play was more entertaining than MLB. Players did all types of antics that not only entertained the fans but showcased their athletic prowess. Things like bunting, stealing a base, doing a double-windup, using the hit-and-run technique were revolutionary at the time. Thus, the games became a major attraction from the cities they operated. The parallel is while MLB featured great players showcasing great skills, it lacked to core entertainment value found in Negro League. Thus, caused a stall in MLB as attendance became stagnant.
Rickey and others were known for their marketing acumen realized integrating the league with the “right players” could boast their economic dilemma. So, while it is true Rickey gave Robinson the shot, the move created consternation with other Negro League players who were thirsty to showcase their talents on a larger state. The move was not about who was the best player in the league but who could make the successful transition to MLB and endure all of the hostility and vitriol needed to help defeat segregation and open the door for other players to follow.
At 52, Jackie Robinson died a relatively young man but his beautiful wife, Rachel has helped to keep his legacy alive and the year long celebration is just one example of how sports transcends society.
Click HERE for a full list of activities.