There are few professional sports players that can claim a similar legacy to that of Jackie Robinson. For multiple reasons, Jackie Robinson stands apart from most other sports icons, and his accomplishments are not relegated to the baseball diamond. An outstanding athlete, Jackie Robinson also had to prove his fortitude in society as the first African American player in Major League Baseball. Through personal challenges, professional accomplishments, and unique grace, Jackie Robinson overcame his doubters and detractors, and in doing so forever changed how the game was played. Jackie Robinson’s background and life story are highly applicable to his success, starting with his early upbringing and development into adulthood. How he responded to adversity explains in large part how he made it into the major leagues, and also how he persevered through some of the treatment he received once he made it.
Robinson’s background: according to an article by Langholt, Robinson was born in rural Georgia as the child of sharecroppers in 1919. Raised by his single mother with four siblings, they were closely bonded in part because of acts of prejudism they experienced. His natural athletic talent was obvious to almost anyone. While attending college at UCLA, he was the first athlete ever at that college to letter in four sports, which were football, track, baseball and basketball. After college, he joined the army and served for two years as a second lieutenant. He received an honorable discharge after voicing sharp criticisms about racial discrimination he witnessed while serving in the armed forces.
From negro leagues to the majors: Robinson played in the negro leagues in the 40’s, but was not fond of them. His opportunity to leave the league for good came along and presented him with a desirable option. According to an article by Cook, Robinson was approached first by the Brooklyn Dodgers, who offered him a contract on the condition that he would not retaliate to any mistreatment he may experience. Robinson accepted and started in the minor leagues his first season, but it did not take long for him to excel and reach the majors due to his high performance. Robinson became the first African American to play in the major leagues in 1947, and in his first year in the majors he batted .347 and won the Rookie of the Year award.
Treatment in the major leagues: According to the Cook article, Robinson’s reception into the league was mixed, but it was clear that there was pressure being applied from many groups. For African Americans, he represented their hope that he would achieve more equality for his people, and if he failed there was a fear that others would use that as an excuse to keep African Americans from playing the game. Robinson was subjected to insults and scorn when he played of a discriminatory nature, as it was clear that many were rooting on him to not succeed. As history now knows, Robinson did not fail and proved up to the challenge. Embracing the challenge, Robinson went further by performing in shows, scheduling public speaking appearances, and also starred in a movie. During his rookie year, his popularity increased immensely, and this trend continued in the coming years as Robinson continued to excel, engage and charm a nation.
Robinson’s career and grace under pressure will never be forgotten, According to the Cook article, he retired with a lifetime batting average of .311 and had 137 home runs, 734 runs batted in, and 197 stolen bases. His accomplishments on the baseball field earned him an induction into the baseball hall of fame in 1962, but his legacy will always go beyond the game due to his contributions for equality among different races.
Cook, B. “Jackie Robinson: a Triple Threat.” The Journal of Sports History. 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.
Langholt, Alice. “Jackie Robinson Biography.” Life123. 2013. n. pag. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.