This month marked the 60th anniversary of one of the most significant events in professional sports - Jackie Robinson's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. On that day, Jackie became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, paving the way for people from all ethnic backgrounds to participate in professional sports at the highest level.
Some national publications have questioned Jackie's legacy due to the fact that the percentage of African-Americans in Major League Baseball this season (8.3%) is the lowest since the 1960's. Those who would question Jackie's legacy fail to appreciate the broader scope of his accomplishments and his impact on American culture as a whole. Jackie's courage and fortitude continue to serve as an inspiration for people of all races and walks of life.
A four-sport athlete at UCLA, Jackie carried the hopes and aspirations of an entire race of people on his shoulders in the face of unimaginable opposition. I would argue that his debut with the Dodgers in 1947, not Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement as we know it. Ironically, while Jackie was serving in the Army during World War II, he was court-martialed for refusing to move to the rear of a bus on his Army base. He was acquitted of the charges.
Reflecting on her husband in Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait, Rachel Robinson had this to say: "Like Mallie (Jackie's mother), Jack felt God's presence in the most personal way. ... I attribute the wonder he experienced as group after group saluted him to one of his least publicly recognized traits - his humility. I admired this characteristic when I first met him, and I watched it develop and deepen as he matured. I am convinced that this humility stemmed from both his religious faith and his sense of himself, for he often told me that he believed he had been endowed with talent to be of service to others."
I am moved to tears every time I watch the segment on Jackie Robinson in Ken Burns's PBS documentary, Baseball. Jackie is a true American hero - a man of conviction and integrity who laid down his life so that others might have the freedom to pursue their dreams.
Live free! Live in Daddy's affection!