October 24, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. There are myriad sources telling of Mr. Robinson’s career and legacy. Obit of the Day will, instead, share some little known facts:
- Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He was named for President Theodore Roosevelt who died on January 6 of that year.
- Jackie attended UCLA and was the first student to letter in four sports: baseball, football, basketball, and track.
- He won the NCAA Long Jump championship in 1940.
- While at UCLA his worst sport was baseball.
- During World War II Robinson enlisted in the Army. In 1944 while serving at Ft. Hood in Waco, Texas he was court martialled for refusing an order to move to the back of a bus because of his race. He was found not guilty.
- Robinson would play one season in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs. According to Robinson, if Branch Rickey of the Dodgers hadn’t recruited him for the majors, he would have quit playing baseball and become a coach at Sam Houston College.
- Robinson was 28 years old when he stepped on the field on April 15, 1947 as the first African American major leaguer in over 60 years. He won the Rookie of the Year award, which is now named for him.
- Here are his stats for his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers which included the 1949 MVP Award as well Brooklyn’s only World Series victory in 1955.
- Jackie played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), his wife was played by Ruby Dee.
- He was traded to the New York Giants, the Dodgers NL rival, after the 1957 season. He never played for the Giants having already signed a contract to work for Chock Full O’ Nuts - a coffee company.
- In 1965 Robinson became the first African Americans sports analyst when he worked on ABC’s Game of the Week.
- Robinson was a Republican, supporting Richard Nixon in the 1960 election as well as Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential and gubernatorial bids. He left the party in 1968 after they failed to support civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
- Robinson’s last public appearance was at game 2 of the 1972 World Series (October 15) where he threw out the first pitch in honor of the 25th anniversary of the integration of baseball. The Cincinnati Reds were playing the Oakland A’s.
- He died at the age of 53 from a heart attack in his home. His eulogy was given by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
- In 1997 Jackie Robinson became the first, and so far only, player to have his uniform number retired throughout all of baseball. (Wayne Gretzky is the only other professional athlete to earn that honor.)
- Jackie’s brother, Mack Robinson, won the silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 100 meter sprint. Jesse Owens finished first.
- Jackie’s wife, Rachel, was an associate professor of psychiatric nursing at Yale University at the time of Jackie’s death.
- Jackie’s son, Jackie Jr., died in a car accident in 1971. He was only 27.
Sources: NYTimes, jackierobinson.com, Wikipedia, IMDB, The National Archives, baseball-reference.com
(Image is copyright of the Associated Press and courtesy of nabnyc.blogspot.com )
And here’s the trailer for the April 2013 release of the film 42. Yes that’s Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie. Music by Jay-Z.