Jackie Robinson's Baseball Career
Early in Jackie's life, he graduated from Washington Junior High School in 1935 and enrolled in John Muir High School. While he was there, his brothers, Frank and Matthew "Mack"-who himself was an Olympic athlete- encouraged Jackie to take advantage of his natural athleticism. While at John Muir High School, he was a four sport star in Football, Basketball, Track, and Baseball. After his high school years, Jackie attended Pasadena Junior college and competed in all four of those sports. Even there and in high school, he was the only colored athlete on his team.
After graduating from Pasadena, Jackie attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).There he became the first athlete to earn varsity status in four different sports. He was also one of four black athletes on the football team, making it the most integrated team in all of Division 1 college football. Also, he won the NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship in the Long Jump in 1940. Surprsingly, baseball, Jackie's future career, was the sport that Jackie was least successful at UCLA.
Jackie left UCLA just shy of graduation and went from team to team in semi-professional football and was later drafted into the United States army during Pearl Harbor. When he finally resumed his baseball career in 1945, he was offered a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs for $400 per month in the Negro Leagues. Despite his extreme remorce for the team, Jackie appeared in the Negro League All-Star Game that year.
Jackie's first interest in the Major Leagues was that year during a tryout for the Boston Red Sox. After the experience, Jackie walked away from the tryout in shock and humility. The Boston Red Sox, 14 years later, would become the last Major League team to integrate in 1959.
In the mid-1940s, the Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager, Branch Rickey, showed interest in Jackie and signed him to Brooklyn's International League farm club, the Montreal Royals. Robinson was signed to a contract worth $600 a month. After being asked about Robinson's involvement in the team and his affect on integration in the Major Leagues, Rickey responded:"
Well, I have so many angles, I think it is in the course of permanent solution. I am deeply gratified if it has had any effect at all upon solving even in the slightest detail our race problem in this country - it has come out I think agreeably and it's good that it was done - I'm glad I did it - but I don't know how to go into the matter to discuss it with any fairness at all - there were many questions involved there, in the solution of it and its a very long story. I think that the negro in baseball has come into a prominent place in the life of baseball in this country and I don't believe that there will be any League in the United States that will not be willing to employ negro players within the next year or so - I look for a complete break of the color line in the Southern Association in the year 1956."
Before entering the Major Leagues, Jackie Robinson competing in the Minor Leagues for the 1946 season. Even here, Jackie's career was controversial. His team was threatened by police to cancel games if he was not taken off of the team. Many training facilities that the team used wouldn't allow him to train there either. When the Dodgers were finally allowed to let Jackie play on March 17th, 1946, during a game against the Royals' Major League team (the Brooklyn Dodgers) he became the first black man to play in the Minor Leagues and also the first to play against a Major League team. During that season, Jackie lead the league in both batting average (.349) and fielding percentage (.985), earning him the recognition of the league's Most Valuable Player.
Just a few days before the 1947 season, Jackie Robinson was called up to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers Major League Baseball team. On April ,1947 Jackie became the first black player to break the Major League Baseball color barrier. This is Jackie Robinson's most notable accomplishment.
Despite Jackie's success, teammates rebelled against playing alongside him. A temporary ending was put to this inside the Dodgers' clubhouse after manager Leo Durocher stated, "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a ******* zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded." The abuse inside the clubhouse stopped but Robinson remained unprotected from his opponents. He was threatened to be hit during games and was subject to rough play to the point that the commisioner of the league issued a warning to all players that they would be fined and/or suspended for such acts.
After a tremendous first season the the MLB, Jackie Robinson put up impressive numbers good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year for the 1947 season. He played 151 games with the Dodgers that season and lead the league in both stolen bases (29) and sacrifice hits (28).
Jackie continued his success throughout the entirety of his career, still dealing with the pressures and criticism that came with breaking the baseball color barrier. Robinson's peers referred to Jackie as the most aggressive, intelligent and successful baserunner of his era. Along with his superb batting average at a .311 lifetime average and a fielding percentage of .983, Jackie was one of the pioneer baseball players of his time, truly revolutionizing baseball and welcoming colored players into Major League Baseball.