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Jackie Robinson

By dnkor Oct 20, 2013 732 Words
Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson was born on January 31st 1919 the youngest of five children in an African American family. Jackie's father left the family in 1920 and his mother supported the family. His older brother, a 1936 Olympic silver medalist, inspired Jackie to pursue his interest in sports.

In high school Robinson played four sports on a varsity level: basketball, baseball, track and football. He was on the high school tennis team as well. In Pasadena Junior College (PJC) he also played basketball, baseball, football and track. He won numerous awards for participating in many athletic activities excelling in all of them and winning other medals and honors.

In his years at PJC he witnessed racism from the police and school authorities. He would often oppose those authorities and was known to be combative in the face of racism.

After graduating PJC he transferred to University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) where Jackie met his future wife Rachel Isum and once again shined as an athlete.

In 1941 he left UCLA a year short of graduation in order to work as an athletic director with the government's National Youth Administration. Once the government ceased NYA operations, Robinson moved to Hawaii in the fall of 1941 to play football for the semi-professional, racially integrated Honolulu Bears. After a short season, Robinson returned to California in December 1941 to pursue a career playing football in the Pacific Coast Football League.

However, following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Robinson was drafted in to the military as a second lieutenant in 1942. But in 1944 racism struck again when Robinson boarded an army bus. Although this was not a segregated bus, the bus driver ordered him to move to the back seats. Robinson refused and the driver backed down. At the end of ride the bus driver called the military police who took Robinson into custody. The military court found him guilty of several charges, including public drunkenness, even though Robinson was known to stay away from alcohol and would never drink. In a second court hearing all the charges were dismissed. He spent his last months in the military as a coach for army athletics until he received an honorary discharge.

While serving as a coach in the army, Robinson met a baseball player from the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Baseball League who encouraged Jackie to try out for the team. Jackie did and in early 1945 the Monarchs sent him an offer to play professional baseball for $400 a month (equivalent to $5,000 in 2012).

Robinson was frustrated by the Negro League's disorganization, embrace of gambling and tough travel schedule. He had a strong desire to play in the MLB, the top professional league in the USA. However, at the time, no black player had ever been allowed to play there since its creation in the 1870's.

Robinson was finally given a chance in 1947 by the MLB's Brooklyn Dodgers and their general manager Branch Rickey. Rickey had an interest to add the first black player in the MLB to his team. He scouted many black players in the Negro League and wanted to make sure that this player would not just be talented but would be able to withstand racism and abuse from the fans, other teams and even from his own teammates.

In a famous three hour meeting on August 1945, Rickey asked Robinson if he could face the racial hostility without fighting back – a concern he had because of Robinson's prior arguments with law officials in PJC and the military. Robinson then replied: "Are you looking for a negro afraid to fight back?" Rickey famously answered: "Robinson, I'm looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back." Rickey knew that Robinson would not only represent himself but his whole race. Baseball itself is just a game but in the mind of the American people it is the American pastime and something that represents America. Robinson had to be accepted over time in order for African Americans to integrate in America. Robinson did what he was asked to do; he answered the insults and violence with silence.

Jackie Robinson will always be considered a hero because of his actions. He fought racism the best way he could and won. Jackie paved the way for other African American athletes and even non-athletes to integrate in America. During his career every Major League ball club signed African Americans to its team.

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