Last Friday, Major League Baseball celebrated the great Jackie Robinson, the first Black player to play in the major leagues. The day commemorated the 75th anniversary of Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier.
Before April 15th, 1947, it was white players only playing and coaching professional baseball. And although Robinson was a Dodger, he wasn’t initially accepted by every member of his team, and at times, suffered, as every Black man at that time did, through the degradation and inhumanity of segregation.
Members of the Players Alliance, a not-for-profit organization started by active and retired professional baseball players, donated their game day salaries in recognition of the Robinson anniversary.
Aaron Hicks (New York Yankees), Lorenzo Cain (Milwaukee Brewers), Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs), Mike Moustakas (Cincinnati Reds), and David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers) are some of the players who provided monetary donations. It will help the charity launch new programs across the country to benefit urban youth, and advance their opportunities in the sport.
“Players sacrifice their pay because they believe that diversity is an asset that should be actively pursued,” said Curtis Granderson, a former player with the New York Mets, now board chairman of the Alliance.
“Our supporters reflect every racial, religious and professional level found in the sport, and they are committed to upholding Jackie’s legacy by breaking today’s barriers.”
MLB started the annual Jackie Robinson Day in 2004. Every April 15, each player and coach on every team wears the number 42, Robinson’s number as a member of the Dodgers. This year also commemorates the 25th anniversary of MLB’s retirement of the No. 42. No player shall wear it again.
Born on Jan. 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, Robinson was raised in the Los Angeles area city of Pasadena. He first attended Pasadena Junior College then UCLA where he became a four-sport star in baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He was UCLA’s first athlete to letter in four varsity sports. Prior to signing with the Dodgers, Robinson played in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs. He was also a commissioned second lieutenant in the segregated United States Army.
As a major league player, Robinson won MLB’s inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, National League batting champion and MVP in 1949, World Series champion in 1955, six-time All-Star and the first Black player inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.
After retiring at the age of 37 in 1957, Robinson was very influential and contributed his time, money and other resources to the civil rights movement. He was the first Black television analyst in baseball and the first Black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o’Nuts. Robinson was one of the founders of the Freedom National Bank, an African American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York.
Living in Stamford, Connecticut, Robinson died of a heart attack on Oct. 24, 1972, at the age of 53. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his achievements on and off the field.
Correction: In a story published last week in the AmNews written by Vincent Davis on the Each One Teach One Winter Invitational, the correct name of the school at which the basketball event was held is The Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce.