Jackson Robinson is an American icon, a representation of equality. His number is retired by every major league team. His name is forever entrenched in history. He is synonymous with all of baseball and the country.
But first, he was a Dodger.
The Hall of Famer was born on this day in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. The youngest of five children, the family relocated to Pasadena, California, a year later after his father left them. He was raised in poverty, but strove for more. Robinson became a standout high school athlete in baseball, football, basketball and track. He would go on to succeed at UCLA and pursue a semi-pro football career before being drafted in 1942.
After the military, Robinson eventually found a home in the Negro League. He earned a tryout with the Boston Red Sox, where he was criticized and ridiculed. The Brooklyn Dodgers emerged as a real suitor, and GM Branch Rickey made a move that’d forever change the landscape of America.
The soon-to-be Rookie of The Year debuted for Brooklyn at first base on April 15, 1947, thus ending baseball’s racial barrier. Robinson played a decade, appearing in six All-Star games, leading the league in steals twice and earned a MVP and batting champion title in 1949. He won one championship in 1955. Robinson retired at age 37 and became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962.
Dodgers baseball will forever be associated with Robinson, and baseball will forever be thankful for his braveness, perseverance and willingness to take on an unprecedented challenge that opened the door for minority baseball players for the rest of time.