The Life of a Legend

Courtnie D.

Staff Writer

Being the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era, Jackie Robinson is an inspiration to thousands of people. Robinson made many accomplishments in his lifetime, living a life that is not very familiar to people today. However, Robinson’s name has come up more and more in people’s recent conversations because of the new movie based on his life, titled 42

Born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was the youngest of five children. After his father left in 1920, Robinson and his family moved to Pasadena, California. There Robinson’s mother had to work various jobs to support her family. Growing up in relative poverty, Robinson and his minority friends were excluded from many recreational opportunities. As a result, Robinson joined a gang, but a friend later persuaded him to abandon it.

During high school, Robinson was inspired by his brothers, Frank and Mack (200 meter dash silver medalist at the 1936 Summer Olympics), to play sports. Robinson played at the varsity level and lettered in four sports: football, basketball, track and baseball. After attending Pasadena Junior College, Robinson transferred to UCLA, where he became the school’s first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.

After serving in the military for two years, Robinson was sent a written offer to play professional baseball in the Negro leagues. Robinson had become so used to the structured playing environment in college that the disorganization of the Negro leagues frustrated him. Robinson also felt that he and the other players were used as gambling to get more money by trading each of them throughout multiple teams. Additionally, the hectic traveling schedules were affecting his relationship with his wife, whom he could now only communicate with through letters.

After playing in the Negro leagues, Robinson decided to further his career by trying out for the Boston Red Sox. The tryout was led by men who were very much against desegregation in Boston, so Robinson did not make the team. However, the Brooklyn Dodgers were looking for players from the Negro leagues to come up and play for them. The Dodgers’ general manager, Branch Rickey, was very interested in Robinson and set up an interview with him. Before Rickey signed Robinson, he wanRobinson CD2ted to make sure that Robinson could take all the racial abuse that would come with being on the Dodgers International League farm club, the Montreal Royals.  Agreeing to all the terms made by Rickey, Robinson signed a contract to play for the Royals.

One year later, six days before the start of the Royals’ season, the Dodgers called Robinson up to play in the major leagues. Robinson made his major league debut at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, playing first base. Robinson became the first player to openly break the major league baseball color line since 1880. Soon racial troubles started coming up in the Dodgers’ clubhouse; some players said they would rather sit the bench than play alongside Robinson. These conflicts later were dissolved by Dodgers management. Manager Leo Durocher said to the team, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black … I am the manager of this team, and I say he plays.” Robinson soon became a target for racial abuse by other teams, but he stayed encouraged by his fellow Dodgers players. Robinson’s outstanding playing during the season earned him the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award. Later in his career Robinson was awarded MVP and played in multiple All-Star games. Robinson died in 1972, and his jersey number 42 was later retired on April 15, 1997.

Robinson has been honored not only in awards but through having movies, books, and songs made about him. Robinson starred in a movie about himself titled The Jackie Robinson Story. The most recent movie about Robinson is 42, and it is about Robinson breaking the color barrier and all of the criticism he got for being the only black player in the major leagues. In 42, Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman who said, “I remember being told the story of Jackie Robinson as a kid and being excited about him the same way I was about Muhammad Ali or Martin Luther King, Jr. When I heard about this movie, I felt like I would give my right arm for it.” A lot of the movie was filmed in Macon, Georgia; other locations of the movie included many cities in Alabama and Tennessee. 42 came out in theaters on April 12th and has been a tremendous success, making $27,487,144 on opening weekend.

Jackie Robinson is one of the most looked up to men in baseball history. Thousands of kids dream of accomplishing all the things Robinson did in his baseball career and after his career. Robinson changed the game of baseball forever. The major leagues now allow, because of Robinson, all races and religions to play. Robinson accomplished many important things that have affected history in his career, but the most important one is equal rights.

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