The year was 1947, April 15th to be exact. Just 14 days earlier, Jack Roosevelt Robinson signed a Major League Baseball contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. When he signed the $5,000 a year contract, Robinson became the first African-American player in the modern era of Major League Baseball. (Fleet Walker played in the 1880s.) The Dodgers won that opening day game in 1947. However, American professional sports scored a much larger win.
Robinson would go on to become the Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1949. His baseball prowess gained Robinson first-ballot entry into the MLB Hall of Fame in 1962.
His color and his grace under the pressure of a segregated system made Robinson more than a player, Robinson is a trailblazer, an icon, and a symbol of the influence one man’s life can have on the fundamental issues of humanity, justice, and equality.
April 15th is known as Jackie Robinson Day around the MLB. Players, coaches, and managers wear Robinson’s number 42; the first number unanimously retired from all MLB teams. While no games are on tap for Jackie Robinson Day 2020, his legacy will be honored through television and internet broadcasts.
Now a little over seven decades later, scores of talented young men and women have opportunities to play professional sports in fully integrated leagues. Based on his famous quote, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ Jackie Robinson would be pleased.