42’s legacy lives on

Brendan Cross

The impression that Jackie Robinson left on the game of baseball is unprecedented. The MLB every year celebrates his 1947 breaking of the color barrier by wearing jerseys all with the number 42 on it. His lore has even hit the big screen this year, as “42” was just released in theaters.

Robinson was born January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia as the youngest of five. He attended John Muir High School and later attended Pasadena Junior College where he was a four-sport star, playing basketball, football, baseball and running track. He graduated from Pasadena in 1939 and went on to UCLA where he continued his complete dominance in the four aforementioned sports. 1942 saw a bit of change of pace from for Robinson as he was drafted into the military. He stayed in the military until being discharged late in 1944 after serving as an army athletics coach.

In 1945, the Kansas City Monarchs offered Robinson a contract offer to play in the Negro Leagues. He was disappointed with the leagues lack of cohesion and overall disorganization. He went on to try out for several major league teams, but race essentially prevented him from actually making a big league club. The Red Sox, in particular, had major qualms with pursuing the talents of a black player, but, teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers, were more open to the idea and even scouted Negro leagues players as possible players. Branch Rickey was the Dodgers general manager and had interest in Robinson. He made an offer to Robinson for what was about $600 a month, as Robinson was told to just turn the other cheek and look away at all the hatred and racism he would face.

Later in 1945, Ricky eventually did sign the contract, and was put on a minor league team of the Dodgers, the Montreal Royals. The Negro leagues had a lot of talent in players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Larry Doby. Paige is of course famous for pitching a Major League game at the age of 59 while Josh Gibson was one of the best players in Negro league history, hitting about 800 home runs in the span of his career. The exact number of how many he hit is not known and he never did play in the Major Leagues. Larry Doby was a very respectable Major League player as he hit over .280 and over 250 home runs in his career, mostly with the Cleveland Indians. There was strife amongst some of the Negro league players that Robinson should not have been the first one to make it in to the majors, as he was not the best player, according to Larry Doby.

Robinson finally broke through to the majors in 1947, primarily playing first base. He received a lot of tension, due to his race, amongst teammates. Some Dodgers players never wanted to play alongside him on a team and there was really no middle ground.

You either loved the fact that Robinson was playing the majors, or absolutely hated it.

Throughout his career, he became one of baseball’s biggest stars, and paved the way for many more African American players, such as Paige and Doby, to be signed by Major League teams.

By the 1959, all teams in the majors had signed at least one black player.

Robinson played a full 10 seasons in the MLB, compiling six all-star game appearances, a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP award, a batting title, and a World Series ring in the 1955 season.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, just beating the minimum 75 percent of votes needed to get in with 77.5.

Current Major League players spoke with passion about their respect for Robinson as a player and figure with mlb.com.

New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson said:

“42 has done amazing things for not only African Americans, which a lot of people think it’s just that, but for the overall globalization of the game.”

Justin Upton, center fielder for the Atlanta Braves, said:

“Every stadium you walk in, you see that 42 [it is a retired number for all Major League teams], you look at it and sometimes reflect back and say this is why I’m here. This is why me, as an African American ballplayer, can get the opportunity and form the relationships and be in the clubhouse and have friends that I have and play the game I love.”