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Article No. 42: All About Jackie Robinson

Cameron BrittAnalyst IApril 24, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 15:  Andruw Jones of the Texas Rangers runs back to second while wearing jersey #42 to commemorate Jackie Robinson day during a game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 15, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I know, I know. That is not a picture of Jackie Robinson. (It's Andruw Jones.)

But, in a late tribute to the trail blazer that was Jackie Robinson, I have decided to dedicate my 42nd article to No. 42.

This is a story that we have all heard a billion-and-a-half times before; but every time I hear it, I get chills up and down my spine.

I will go ahead and credit biography.com and baseball-reference.com for all factual information gathered for the compelling story of this revolutionary man, player, and activist.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919, in Cairo, Ga., to a single mother.

Through an impoverished childhood, Robinson flourished in four sports (football, baseball, track, and basketball) while attending John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College.

In fact, Robinson was so good he became UCLA's first athlete to letter in four sports.

However, due to his social status, Jackie was forced to leave UCLA just before graduation.

Robinson moved to Hawaii where he played for the semi-pro Honolulu Bears before the call of duty led him to enlist in the United States Army in 1942.

Robinson never saw combat though, as he was honorably discharged (after a pardon) in 1944 after refusing to move to the back of a bus during training.

Following his exit from the armed forces, Robinson began playing professional baseball in 1944 for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.

Soon after joining the Monarchs, Brooklyn Dodger Vice President Branch Rickey hand-picked Robinson (both for his ability and demeanor) to begin the integration process of Major League Baseball.

Robinson was assigned to the Montreal Royals in 1945 and played his first game with them Mar. 17 of the following year.

Even in a much more open-minded city like Montreal, Robinson still received jeers from the crowd, glares from his teammates, and death threats from sick-minded opponents.

Still, Jackie carried himself with the sense of class that allowed him to earn the respect of so many later in his career.

Over the course of his first MiLB season, Robinson mustered a .349 average and .985 fielding percentage at second base.

His performance was good enough for a promotion to the bigs the next year on Apr. 15, 1947, when (as all of us know) he became the first man of any color to play at that level at the ripe-old age of 28.

Through a similar situation he had experienced in the minors, Robinson won NL Rookie of the Year honors with Brooklyn while hitting .297 with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases, leading the league in 151 games.

From there, his legend—and numbers—grew.

In 10 MLB seasons, Robinson played in 1,382 games with 1,518 hits, 273 doubles, 54 triples, 137 home runs, 197 stolen bases, while batting .311 with a very impressive .474 slugging percentage, and .983 fielding percentage.

He also won MVP honors in 1949 and appeared in six all-star games (1949, '50, '51, '62, '53, and '54).

Jackie Robinson was forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1952.

Now, Robinson may have never put up the best statistics, but what he did for the game of baseball goes leaps and bounds beyond that.

He opened the door for greats like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and even Roberto Clemente.

With his previously mentioned class and ability, he showed Americans what their unfounded prejudice was costing them: a chance to see some of the most gifted athletes, and best people, play the beautiful game of baseball.

Up until his death in 1972 from complications with diabetes, Robinson continued to work for the advancement of minorities when Jim Crow Laws still reigned supreme.

He is one of the greatest individuals to ever grace this planet, and was a baseball player to boot.

That's why Major League Baseball retired his number and started the annual tradition of celebrating his entrance into the majors every Apr. 15.

Robinson should serve as an inspiration to all of us, no matter what our backgrounds may be, because of the sacrifices he made for humanity as a whole.

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