JACKIE ROBINSON’S IMPACT ON AMERICA
Born in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie Robinson and his brother Mack were raised in nearby Pasadena. Jackie attended Pasadena Junior College before attending UCLA for three years. The scholarly Jackie earned 24 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. In football he gained 12 yards a carry and led the nation in punt returns in 1939. In basketball he led the Pacific Coast League in scoring two years and was league MVP.
Jackie played baseball for the Honolulu Bears in 1941 and served in the military during World War II as a college degreed officer. In 1945, he played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League with teammate Satchel Paige. It was widely rumored in Negro League Baseball that Major League Baseball would start its own Negro League as a precursor to integrated baseball years down the road. Consequently, many established Negro League stars thought bigger paydays were imminent.
In a surprise move Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie to a contract in late 1945. Only Jackie had the perfect combination of college education, talent and temperament to break the color barrier in such a way that more Negro League players could follow. Jackie was sent to the Dodgers farm team, the Montreal Royals and shifted from shortstop to second base to prepare for Major League Baseball.
In 1946 he married Rachel Issum, then entered Major League Baseball in 1947 and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He won the league MVP award in 1949. In his Hall of Fame career as a Brooklyn Dodger (1947-1956), Jackie batted .311, hit 137 home runs, had 734 runs batted in and stole 197 bases, including home plate several times. He helped the Dodgers win 6 pennants and in 1955, a world championship.
Though Joe Louis preceded him as a solitary figure loved by all races in America, Jackie was the first to demonstrate how a Black man helped make white teammates better. Before Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, his success on the field and vocal eloquence off the field influenced White leaders to hire African Americans into interracial teamwork environments throughout society – at least on a token basis. He retired just before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.