…except in the impact it has on other lives." -Jackie Robinson.
It is safe to say that no one, especially another athlete, has impacted more lives than Jackie in the past 100 years. He opened the door for African-American athletes of multiple generations, as he is regarded as the Barrier Breaker of Baseball.
In addition to his ability and talent on the baseball field, Jackie was an all-around natural athlete. He excelled at every sport he played. In fact, while at UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team before withdrawing from school due to financial troubles. That summer, the Chicago Tribune invited Robinson to participate in an all-star game against the Champion Chicago Bears. Despite the very-much lopsided game, Robinson stood out by scoring a touchdown. His performance that day landed him a paid roster-spot for the semi-pro and racially integrated, Honolulu Bears. On December 5, 1941, Jackie left Hawaii and headed back to Los Angeles. Two days later, Pearl Harbor was bombed and with that, Jackie was drafted in early 1942.
While achieving the rank of Second-Lieutenant, Jackie was stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas. Interestingly enough, also stationed there was heavyweight boxing champ and Army Private Joe Louis. Louis, like Robinson, was held in high respects for his athletic talents and also his success in bolstering the American spirit during crucial times; he also desegregated the game of professional golf. Robinson was honorably discharged from the Army in November, 1944 after court-martial charges against him, for refusing to sit on the back of a bus, had been dropped.
(Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson at Fort Riley Field in Kansas)
In 1945, Jackie received an offer to play in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs. He signed on with the team (alongside Satchel Paige) for just one season before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in April 1947.
(Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson)
The rest is history. In the face of racism, on the field and off, Robinson exercised extreme self-control and silently answered insults with his performance. In his first season, Jackie became Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP just two years later. He was selected to six all-star teams and became a World Series Champion in 1955. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1962 and jersey number 42 has been retired by all Major League Baseball Teams.
Jackie Robinson retired from professional baseball on January 5, 1957.