by Christopher North
On April 15, 1947, America had one of its most significant sporting events in history, when a black man wearing the number 42 stepped onto the grass at Ebbets field. Met by both boos and applause, he took to the field that day and changed the game and the country, forever.
That man was Jackie Robinson.
While people like, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks did might have more of a remembrance, Jackie was the first to do such a courageous act. When he took to the field for the first time, surrounded by white players and white fans, the Dodgers General Manager, an Ohio born Methodist, Branch Rickey, set into action the greatest thing that a sport has ever done.
Many were against him. Some teams even claimed that they wouldn’t play with a black man on the field. Some of Robinson’s teammates even had problems with it and others tried to refuse to play, but Rickey’s mind was made up.
What many people often tend to forget about Robinson was just how fantastic of an athlete he was. He hit .297 his first season, with 12 home runs and 29 stolen bases while on his way to picking up the Rookie of the Year award.
He also lead the lovable losers that were the Brooklyn Dodgers to the 1947 World Series, a series that would go on to be won by the New York Yankees.
Over his 10 year career he would hit .311 with 137 home runs and nearly steal 200 bases, including an incredible 19 steals of home.
He was never a spectacular fielder, moving around quite often from position to position, but his bat certainly made up for it.
The number of minorities in sports is still on the rise today.
Eight-point-three percent of baseball players last year were African American, an incredible 29.3% Latino players and 1.2% Asian players. All that can be attributed to when Robinson played for the first time.
For that reason, every major league baseball team has retired Jackie’s number 42. The number was last worn daily by Mariano Rivera, the future Hall of Fame close for the Yankees.
Robinson’s teammate Pee Wee Reese once had said, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42 so they won’t tell us apart.”
Every year on April 15, every player throughout the major leagues dons the number on their backs to honor the great feat.