Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson

U.S. #2016 – Robinson was the 5th honoree in the Black Heritage series.

Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia.

The grandson of a slave, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was the youngest of five children raised by a single mother. He excelled at sports from a young age, playing football, basketball, track, and baseball at Pasadena Junior College. In 1938, he was honored as the region’s Most Valuable Player in baseball.

Robinson’s older brother Matthew was also an athlete, earning the silver medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He encouraged his younger brother to follow his love of sports.

U.S. #3186c – Robinson stamp from the 1940s Celebrate the Century sheet.

Jackie went on to become the first student at the University of California to win varsity letters in four sports. However, he didn’t graduate, dropping out just months prior. Instead, he moved to Hawaii and played for the semi-professional football team, the Honolulu Bears. His time there was cut short when he was drafted for World War II. Though he never saw combat, he was court-martialed for refusing to give up his seat on a bus. He was later acquitted and granted an honorable discharge.

U.S. #3408a – From the 2000 Legends of Baseball sheet.

After leaving the Army in 1944, Robinson committed his energy to professional baseball, which was segregated at that time. In 1945, he played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro-American League. Then he met Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who believed it was time to integrate Major League Baseball. He knew the first black player in the major leagues couldn’t be just anyone – he needed someone that could face the harsh criticism of the media and be able to “turn the other cheek.” And he found the man for the job – Jackie Robinson.

In 1945, history was made when Robinson signed a contract with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ best farm team. His debut with the Royals on April 18, 1946, was legendary. In five at-bats, he hit a three-run homer and three singles, stole two bases, and scored four times. Robinson was promoted to the Dodgers the following spring. He played his first major league game on April 15, 1947, a defining moment not only in sports but also in history. Robinson earned respect as a baseball player because of his talents as a fielder, batter, and daring base runner.

U.S. #UX337 – Jackie Robinson First Day Postal Card.

Robinson’s career was full of great moments. In 1947, he was named Rookie of the Year. One of his best years was 1949, when he batted .342, scored 122 runs, and had 124 runs batted in. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player that year. In 1962, Robinson was the first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Even under pressure, Robinson performed well. On the last day of the 1951 regular season, the Dodgers were tied with the Philadelphia Phillies in an extra-inning game. With the bases loaded and two out, Robinson dove to grab a hard line drive and was knocked unconscious. Two innings later, he hit a game-winning homer that put the Dodgers into the pennant race.

Item #M5005 pictures Jackie Robinson and other Hall of Famers.

During his career, Robinson was insulted, sent hate mail, intentionally hit by pitches, and issued death threats. Following his example, many African-Americans rejected their “separate but equal” status, and fought for integration. People of all races admired his dignified courage against fierce prejudice.

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  1. I was 15 years old when Jackie played his first game with The Brooklyn Dodgers, what a thrill to see such a daring and great player playing on the team I loved, I followed his career thru all of his years with Brooklyn, not only was he a great player but a great humanitarian and a great American, thank you Jackie Roberson for all the joy and happiness you not only gave me but too the millions of Americans around the world, you made history with you’re career, a true legend.

  2. I was young enough to remember that Jackie was all over the newsreels at that time. He was good and stood up to the challenge of the times.

  3. Thanks Mystic for a great essay on the life and times of a great American and a great baseball player. Happy Birthday and RIP Jackie. I have never understood racism or why the color of someone’s skin should determine their place in the world. I guess I was fortunate to be raised in a family where race was never an issue.

  4. Sometimes, sports figures transcend their role in the sports world and force the public at large at large to confront societal issues and problems. Think of people such as Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Katherine Switzer (look her up), and many others.

  5. Thanks for 7 months of great stories and the stamps that helped to bring life to the subjects. This type of entertaining history, I believe, would serve us well in the classrooms of middle-schoolers and highschoolers. History is more than just names, dates and places.

  6. I believe you mean the Philadelphia Phillies, not the Athletics. The Phillies are a National League team, the A’s an American. There was no inter-league play in those days, except for exhibition games (and of course the All-Star Game and World Series.

    Jackie may have had an ax to grind with the Phils, havimg lost the 1950 pennant to them on the last day of the season, on Dick Sisler’s 9th inning homer. The same thing happened in 1951, during the 3-game playoff with the NY Giants, when Bobby Thomson hit his 3-run homer, the “shot heard round the world. Wereit not for those two critical home runs, the Dodgers would have won five straight pennants from 1949 to 1953, just like the Yanks. Could they have beaten the Yanks in 1950 or 51? We’ll nevrknow.

    If my memory serves me correctly, Jackie died from complications of diabetes (which had already claimed his eyesight) in 1972, at the age of 53.

  7. I believe there is a minor error in your history. The Dodgers were a national League team and the Philadelphia Athletics were an American League team. Thus it is unlikely that they played the last game of the regular season together as interleague play did not happen then except in the World Series or exhibition games. I believe they played the Philadelphia Phillies, not the A’s.

  8. Thank you for the peacful commentary. Roosevelt was nonviolent and contributed to the Civil Rights Movement.

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