Thank you Jack Robinson

Jackie Robinson | Library of Congress
Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers |  the Library of Congress

The Rookie that changed Baseball

On April 15, a 28 year old rookie suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers to open the new season at Ebbets Field. The opponent was the Boston Braves. He was slotted to bat second in the batting order and lined up to start at first base.

In his first major league at bat, he grounded out to third base. In his second,  he flew out to left field. The next time up, he grounded into a double play. In his final at bat of the game, he got on base from a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt, arriving at 2B. He'd score the go ahead run when the next batter hit a double. 

In his first game, the rookie and his Dodgers teammates walked away with a 5-3 victory in a season where they would eventually win the National League pennant by five games. The Brooklyn club would go on to face the New York Yankees in the World Series, taking the series to seven games before eventually falling to the Bronx Bombers.

The rookie would finish his inaugural season batting .297 and be the first recipient of the newly minted Rookie of the Year award. 

This would be considered a great start to a major league career for any first year player. But few people ever had an impact on the game of baseball and society at large as did that Brooklyn rookie in 1947. 

(Game statistics are found on Baseball Reference)


Seventy five years ago, Jackie Robinson became the first black player to take the field in a Major League Baseball game in the modern era. He broke the color barrier that had stood since Moses Fleetwood Walker played with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884. He didn't just appear either. He came to play. 

Mr. Robinson would go on to play for 10 seasons, earn six All Star appearances, an MVP award, six trips to the World Series, including winning a championship in 1955, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. 

Needless to say, he was a great baseball player. That he was able to play at a high level while facing obstacles his contemporaries didn't is a testament to his abilities. His performance and demeanor in the face of open hatred, bigotry and animosity is a demonstration of his character. That he went through the gauntlet without backing down nor lashing out is proof of his strength and resolve. 

On April 15th each year, MLB honors Jackie Robinson for his contribution and lasting legacy. His number, 42, was officially retired across the entire league in 1997, the 50th anniversary of his rookie season. Today, all players wear his number on April 15th to pay homage and respect to him. He deserves it. 

I don't know what Mr. Robinson would think about having a day to honor him. He never wanted special treatment. That wasn't his goal. He wanted to be treated the same as any other ball player. No better, no worse. 

So much has been written about Jackie Robinson. There's little I could add that could even begin to touch on the impact he had on baseball, America and history. 

What I can express, is my gratitude and respect. 


Thank you Mr. Robinson for playing baseball. 

When you were called upon to be a catalyst for change, you played baseball.

When you faced hatred and slurs, inspired by a cancer plaguing this country for centuries, far removed from the normal taunts ball players normally endured, you played baseball.

When faced with death threats and boycotts from other franchises, you played baseball. 

When a large part of the population needed hope and inspiration, you played baseball. 

And when you were on the ballot for the Hall of Fame, the only thing you wanted considered was how you played baseball. 

I admire how you represented yourself day in and day out. How you lived and played with poise and restraint. How you stood tall and didn't lower yourself to the level of those that tried to knock you down. How you wanted to be liked or disliked for who you were and what you did, not for what you looked like. 

I think everyone can learn and benefit from the example you set. 

The issues you faced in 1947 are not gone completely. They are still here, though pushed to the fringes instead of the mainstream. It's a battle that is still fought today, though on different fronts. Sadly, irrational hatred will likely always exist in some form or another. 

At the same time, it can't be denied that the pulse of society has changed. And though you weren't alone in the overall fight, on that Opening Day 75 years ago, you changed the National Pastime forever. You didn't just change the complexion of baseball, you went a long way towards changing the hearts and minds of every day people. When thrust upon that national stage, you went out and played like you belonged there. And there's no doubt that you did belong. 

Today, when I watch the players take the field as the Dodgers host the Cincinnati Reds, it will be like every other game I've watched in my 41 years of life. Two teams  facing off against each other in an early season game. Players chosen because of their talent and not there race. 

And when I see all 56 players on the field, in the dugouts and bullpens with the number 42 on their back, I'll be reminded that in my lifetime, this is how I've always witnessed a baseball game. And It's in large part because you had the courage to take the field and play baseball 75 years ago. 

Thank you Jack Robinson. 



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