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How Jackie Robinson Made History And Became America’s Best Athlete

Many consider Jackie Robinson to be the most admired athlete in sports history. Robinson influenced an end to segregation that existed in baseball at the time, and initiated the start of a new period in the world of sports.

Robinson’s road to the big leagues wasn’t easy as he faced adversity. It would be until one man gave Robinson an opportunity that his life would never be the same. Here’s how Jackie Robinson became the renowned athlete so many have admired throughout the years.

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Early Life

Born on January 31, 1919, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia to a farming family. He was the youngest of five kids and had a rough start in life.

Robinson’s father left the family when he was just a year old. He would eventually move to the affluent town of Pasadena, California with his family, but they didn’t have a lot of money.

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Rejected From Recreational Activities & Baseball Dreams

Jackie and his group of friends were not allowed to participate in recreational activities. This almost put him off from playing sports but his older brother would inspire him to play once he was of high school age.

Mack Robinson, Jackie’s older brother, participated in the 1936 Olympics where he won a silver medal in track and field. This inspired Robinson to continue playing sports, eventually earning varsity letters in various sports at his school.

Robinson’s friend, and former Kansas City Monarchs player in the Black league, encouraged him to try out for the team. Robinson wrote a letter to the co-owner of the team that paid off.

In 1945, the Kansas City Monarchs would offer him $400 monthly to play for the team. Robinson performed well but wasn’t liking the disorganized experience of it all. He needed structure.

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Progressive Teams & The Challenge of Spring Training

Branch Rickey was the general manager and club president of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the mid-1940s. He began scouting Black players and found Robinson to have a lot of promise. He offered him a place on the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s International League farm club, where he could prepare for the major leagues.

Robinson wasn’t allowed to stay in the hotel with his white teammates in racially-segregated Florida. An African American couple housed him during his time at training instead.

Local facilities had to be used for spring training since the Dodgers didn’t own a training facility. This posed another challenge for Robinson and the team because many of these facilities wouldn’t allow them to train with him on the team.

In spite of the obstacles, Jackie Robinson would make his minor league debut on March 17, 1946, the first Black player to do so.

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The Major Leagues & New Fans

The Brooklyn Dodgers reached out to him with an offer less than a week before the start of the season. He made his debut with the Dodgers on April 11, 1947 wearing the number 42 on his jersey.

He received a mixed reception from the public. There was still a lot of racial divide in the country and the sport. But Robinson would demonstrate he was worthy of playing in the major leagues.

Robinson ushered in a new demographic to the Dodgers and the sport. His athletic talents brought in an audience of over 26,000 fans at their opening game and more than half of them were Black. Dodgers games became the hot ticket for African American fans.

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Rookie Of The Year And Financial Success

Robinson was named “Rookie of the Year” after the 1947 season, in spite of the adversity he faced. His team became a big support system while other teams taunted him.

He also became the highest-paid Dodgers player in 1950 and got paid more than any other player ever had. He finished the season with almost 100 runs and 12 stolen bases.

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His Retirement And His Passing

Robinson retired from baseball in 1956 after being struck out at the World Series in game 7. He went on to work in the corporate world for several years and suffered from a number of health issues, including diabetes.

He was the first Black player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame back in 1962. Robinson passed away at 53 years old in 1972 after suffering a heart attack. Thousands mourned his death. The Dodgers honored his legacy by retiring his number 42.