On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers and by doing so, he broke baseball’s colour barrier by becoming the first African American to play in the Major Leagues. His story has been told many times, perhaps most recently in the movie, 42.
The story of Jackie Robinson is not about how baseball changed, it’s about how professional sports and a entire country changed. This moment can be seen as a civil rights movement, taken outside of the political sphere an into the baseball diamond. There is no colour, religion, ethnicity or any other personal traits, it’s a game played with a ball and a bat, and Jackie became one of the best at it.
At the conclusion of his first season he won the Rookie of the Year award. The first of many awards and honours that included the Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and being named an All-star 6 times through his 10 year career. All contributing to Jackie receiving baseball highest honour in 1962, being inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
That kind of success is enough to marvel at just taken by itself. But it isn’t possible to talk about his career without taking into account the racism, prejudice and utter hate he endured through his career, the type that is difficult or impossible to imagine for some. He was tested by opposing players and coaches, umpires, fans both at away games and some at home games, and by some of his teammates too. Through remarkable adversity, Jackie Robinson became a legend of the game, of sport, and of a nation.
The years following Jackie’s first season, more players of colour came into the league. He started a movement in baseball of inclusion and the right to play the game.
Each year since 2004, on April 15, all players around the MLB wear the number 42 on their jersey’s to honour Jackie Robinson, in recognition of what he did for the game. Known as, Jackie Robinson Day.