Jackie Robinson is etched in baseball history forever not just for his play on the field, but for his courageous efforts to allow black men the chance to play in the Major Leagues. Robinson was the first black player to ever appear in the MLB. His debut was met with backlash and hatred, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a show.
Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947 and went on to make six All-Star teams in 10 seasons. He became a beloved member of the baseball community among all races, so his tragic death in 1972 shocked and saddened the entire baseball world.
Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the MLB in 1947
Before 1947, Major League Baseball was a sport for white men and white men only. Black baseball players had their own league, the Negro League, at the time, but one man had bigger dreams. That man was Jackie Robinson.
Robinson didn’t see himself as an intruder. He saw himself as a great ballplayer who deserved the same opportunities to succeed as any talented white players. After years of struggle, Robinson finally broke into the MLB in 1947 when made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In his autobiography, “I Never Had It Made,” Robinson wrote about the struggles of his first year in the league.
“I had to fight hard against loneliness, abuse and the knowledge that any mistake I made would be magnified because was the only black man out there. Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.”
Robinson opened the door for black athletes in any sport to be able to compete at the highest level. He was one of the most impactful figures in the fight to end segregation.
Robinson made six All-Star teams and won an MVP award in his career
After starting his baseball career in the Negro League, Robinson courageously set his sights for the MLB. In 1947, he became the first black player to ever play in the Majors. Robinson dealt with racism everywhere he went with the Dodgers, but that didn’t stop him from performing on the field.
In his first MLB season, Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award. He also led the league in stolen bases with 29. Two years later, Robinson won the league MVP. He led the league again with 37 stolen bases, and he also recorded the highest batting average (.342) in the MLB.
Robinson made six MLB All-Star teams in his 10-year career. He finished his career with a .311 batting average and 197 stolen bases. He retired after the 1956 season, but he didn’t stop fighting for equality after baseball.
The tragic death of Jackie Robinson shocked and saddened the baseball world in 1972
By the late 1960s, Jackie Robinson’s health took a downward turn. He suffered a heart attack in 1968, and he also lost sight in his eye due to diabetes around the same time.
On October 24, 1972, Robinson suffered another heart attack in his Stamford, Conn. home. He was rushed to the Stamford Hospital early in the morning, but he passed away shortly after arriving. He was 53 years old.
Robinson’s death shocked and saddened the entire baseball world in 1972. He started as a hated vigilante, but he grew into a beloved figure in the sport across all races.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference