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Honor Jackie Robinson But Continue His Fight As a Bringer of Change

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Seventy-five years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he walked onto the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Robinson will be honored for what he did for baseball and how he fostered change in a game that was once Black America’s pastime. But his off-the-field prowess deserves as much recognition, if not more. He was a man much bigger than baseball, a game that didn’t even want him at one time.

Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia to a sharecropping family but was raised in California. He was a high school sports star and became UCLA’s first four-sport star in football, basketball, baseball and track.

After his college career was over, he briefly played for the Los Angeles Bulldogs, a pro team competing in the American Football League. In 1942, he was drafted into the US Army. After finishing officer candidate school, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to Fort Hood, Texas in 1943.

That much most people know.

The Jackie Most Don’t Know

What most don’t know is that Robinson was a physical education teacher and player-coach at Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas (now known as Huston-Tillotson University) from 1944-45.

The college didn’t really have an athletic program at the time. During basketball tryouts, only seven players showed up, which led to Robinson becoming both coach and player.

Even more interesting is the fact that the school competed in the SWAC against HBCU programs like Grambling, Southern and Prairie View A&M.

While the team didn’t garner success, Jackie’s athletic talents did and they caught the attention of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. The Monarchs liked what they saw and, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, offered Robison $250 per month and a $500 bonus to play for them.

Robinson was an instant success in his one season with the team, batting .414 in 58 plate appearances.

His performance caught the eyes of Major League Baseball and in 1946 the Dodgers signed him to their minor league team, the Montreal Royals.

A year later, on April 10th, 1947, Robinson signed his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and five days later, he made history.

Jackie’s ascent to, and success in, Major League Baseball is well documented and celebrated.

During his 10 years with the Dodgers, he was a 6x All Star, the 1947 Rookie of the Year, and the 1949 NL MVP, a year in which he also won the Batting Title with a .349 BA. He was a career .311 hitter and helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one World Series title in 1955. In 1962, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Continue reading over at First and Pen.

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