Seventy years ago today, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers made his debut at Ebbets Field. This historic moment marked the first time in the twentieth century that an African-American played major league baseball.
Fifty years later, on April 15, 1997, President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Jackie Robinson in Shea Stadium, and Major League Baseball retired his number 42 throughout the league. “No man is bigger than baseball,” commissioner Bud Selig said, “except Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson is bigger than baseball.”
By signing Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers had ended the institutionalized racial segregation in baseball that had existed since the 1880s. Robinson endured the slings and arrows of racial slurs bravely and stoically, proving through his play on the field that blacks were just as capable as whites of playing outstanding baseball. Whether you are a baseball fan or not, there is little doubt that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier impacted the history of America. As the world continues to face issues of hatred and discrimination today, perhaps Robinson’s example is one we should all keep in mind as we continue to strive forward.
As you probably know, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully received the Medal of Freedom just a couple weeks ago from President Barack Obama. This man has been calling Dodgers games since 1950, and he’s seen a lot in his time. Putting that incredible career in perspective, MLB.com created this infographic to give us a visualization of just how much he’s had the opportunity to cover.
The first World Series grand slam came on October 10, 1920 when Elmer Smith of the Indians belted a bases-loaded homer against the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the same game, Indians pitcher Jim Bagby hit the first World Series homer by a pitcher. Cleveland won the game, 8-1.
On August 22, 1917, Pirates’ outfielder Carson Bigbee set a major league record with eleven at-bats in a single game as the Pirates and Dodgers squared off for twenty-two innings. It is a record that has since been tied by thirteen others, but never broken.
On August 8, 1903, as Dodgers infielders argued a close call at the bag at third base, Joe McGinnity of New York dashed home and was credited with a steal of home plate. Brooklyn pitcher Henry Schmidt was so upset about the steal that he turned and threw the baseball out of the ballpark. His actions resulted in Schmidt being tossed from the game, and the Dodgers lost 4-3.
On August 4, 1908, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brooklyn Superbas, 3-0, at Washington Park. What is particularly of note about this contest is that the entire game was played with only one baseball.
In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, this year I decided to simply go with a handful of basic facts about this celebrated ballplayer.
Birth Name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson
Born: January 31, 1919 in Cairo, GA
Died: October 24, 1972 in Stamford, CT
Married: Rachel Issum on February 10, 1946
Children: Jackie Jr., Sharon, and David
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 204 lb.
College Education: UCLA
Professional Team: Brooklyn Dodgers
Debut: April 15, 1947
Years Played: 1947-56
President Theodore Roosevelt, who died 25 days before Robinson was born, was the inspiration for his middle name.
He was the youngest of five children and grew up in relative poverty in a well-off community in Pasadena, California.
Robinson was the first ever four-sport letter winner at UCLA (football, track, basketball and baseball).
Robinson played Minor League Baseball for the Montreal Royals in 1946, until he was called up to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues in 1947.
He won Rookie of the Year in 1947 with a batting average of .297, 175 hits, 12 home runs, and 48 runs batted in.
He was a six time All-Star between the years 1949 to 1954.
In 1982, Jackie Robinson became the first Major League Baseball player to appear on a US postage stamp.
Shortly before his death, Jackie Robinson was selected to throw out the first pitch at the 1972 World Series, the 25th anniversary of his breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
Fifty years after he became the first modern black player, Major League Baseball chose his number as the first one to ever retire for every team.