Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson (January 31, 1919 — October 24, 1972) was an American baseball player who was a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956. While an amazing athlete in many respects, he is most remembered for being the first African-American player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Although black players had appeared in top-level professional baseball in the 1870s and '80s,note and may have done so (very) briefly in the 1930s,note an informal but rigidly-enforced "color line" emerged in the major leagues, which led to the creation of the Negro Leagues in the early 20th century.
Robinson, who was a four-sport star at UCLA,note actually began his professional sports career in football, which had already started to integrate at its lower levels. However, World War II intervened; Robinson was drafted into the Army, and because he was college educatednote subsequently qualified to enter Officer Candidate School — one of several Black draftees who fought for and won this right in 1942–43. He was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 761st Tank Battalion (the "Black Panthers"). He never saw combat, however, due to an an incident where he had nonviolently resisted a racist bus driver's instruction to send him to the back of the bus. This led to a court-martial for insubordination; he was acquitted (by an all-white jury, no less), but not before he missed the chance to join the Black Panthers on the Western Front.
After an honorable discharge, Robinson started his professional baseball career playing in the Negro Leagues, but was soon after recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey for his organization. Robinson was the first African-American player to break into the majors in defiance of the color line, albeit only after a preliminary season with Brooklyn's farm team, the Montreal Royals.
And as revolutionary as his initial signing was, he changed the game even more once he actually took the field. For instance, on his first game with Montreal against the Jersey City Giants, Robinson had four hits, including a three-run home run. He also scored four runs, drove in three, and stole two bases in the Royals' 14–1, spectacular play you'd expect from a Hollywood movie like The Natural.
Unfortunately, Robinson also endured unending racial abuse, which hit particularly hard in his season with Montreal; he was almost driven to a nervous breakdown, but the fans of the Canadian city helped him weather it as their summertime hero as that city on an island proved an oasis he was forever grateful to have. It didn't affect his play as he helped the Royal become the league champions of that season. The challenge was barely any less when Robinson moved on to play for Brooklyn, but he won the doubters over to the frustration of the bigots and even had the support of opposing players like Hank Greenberg who was all too familiar with bigotry considering he was Jewish.
On top of being a skilled, versatile fielder capable of playing practically anywhere on the infield and outfield, Robinson defied the pure-slugging approach of his contemporaries, instead combining power with incredible speed and plate discipline for a more well-rounded offensive approach, setting a template that generations of ballplayers have followed since. He was the inaugural Rookie of the Year, racked up six All-Star appearances and an NL MVP award, and made an iconic home-plate steal in the 1955 World Series to help the Dodgers finally win their first World Series after 40 years of coming up short. His impact was so great that his jersey number, 42, is retired across all of MLB.
Appears in the following works:
- Brooklyn Bridge (TV show)
- The Jackie Robinson Story, a Non-Actor Vehicle biopic starring the man himself as himself.
- The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson, a TV biopic covering Robinson's Army service in World War II, starring Andre Braugher in the title role.
- Soul of the Game, an HBO original movie, about the decision to choose Robinson as the first African-American in Major League Baseball, instead of Satchel Paige or Josh Gibson. Robinson is played by Blair Underwood.
- 42, a biopic about Robinson, named after his jersey number, and starring Chadwick Boseman in the central role.
- A fictional counterpart of him named Rackie Jobinson serves as the basis for an extensive quest chain in Fallout Shelter, with various factions searching for his legendary jersey in the ruins of post-nuclear America. The item is one of the most powerful in the game and explicitly references his number 42 in its description.
- He appeared in an episode of Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, where he teaches the gang that everyone should be treated fairly no matter what.
- Jackie Robinson (2016), a biographical documentary created for PBS by Ken Burns, featuring Jamie Foxx as the voice of Robinson.