On Sunday, the entire league celebrated the life of one of the greatest men to ever walk on this beautiful Earth. It just happened to be that he was a gifted athlete who became one of the greatest MLB players of all time.
Jackie Robinson led the way for African American men and created a sense of togetherness in this country that had never been seen before.
In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey made one of the best decisions of his career by signing Robinson to a contract. He hired a man that could not only make his team tremendously better, but a man who was able to stand up to the harsh criticism that would follow.
It was important that Robinson was the first African American to break into the major leagues, because he was a man who wouldn’t fight back to torment and could keep enough cool to play the game at an exceptional level. Had anyone else filled this role they may not have succeeded, and the color barrier may have continued.
Let’s remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. was 16 when Robinson’s contract was signed, which was well before King led the civil rights movement. What Robinson was doing was considered outrageous at the time, and he was basically doing it alone. I truly believe Robinson was the leader of the rights movement and set the stage for vocal leaders like King and others.
Whether on the field or off, Robinson endured things that many of us will never understand and hopefully will never have to go through. And despite all that, he kept his mouth shut and put together an impressive career for the Dodgers.
He was voted Rookie of the Year in ’47 after batting .297, scoring 125 runs and swiping 29 bags. He won his only MVP two years later when he hit .342 and stole 37 bases. He played in six straight All-Star games from 1949 to 1954. He also helped the Dodgers win their first ever World Series in 1955.
This ultimately gained him the respect of fans and the country. White Americans started to jump on board, and instead of coming to games to boo him, they started showing up to watch an incredible athlete do amazing things.
Not long after Robinson made his splash in the big leagues, the door was opened for other African Americans like Larry Doby, Monte Irvin and Ernie Banks. The game had changed, and American culture was shifted by the game of baseball and this courageous man.
Not only should baseball fans celebrate Robinson, but the entire nation should take a moment to recognize what he did for his race and the country as a whole. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.