Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson : biography

31 January 1919 – 24 October 1972

Protesting the major leagues’ ongoing lack of minority managers and central office personnel, Robinson turned down an invitation to appear in an old-timers’ game at Yankee Stadium in 1969. He made his final public appearance on October 15, 1972, throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the World Series. He gratefully accepted a plaque honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of his MLB debut, but also commented, "I’m going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at that third base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball." This wish was fulfilled only after Robinson’s death: following the 1974 season, the Cleveland Indians gave their managerial post to Frank Robinson (no relation), a Hall of Fame-bound player who would go on to manage three other teams. Despite the success of these two Robinsons and other black players, the number of African-American players in Major League Baseball has declined since the 1970s.

Early life

Family and personal life

Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, into a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia, during a Spanish flu and smallpox epidemic. He was the youngest of five children born to Jerry and Mallie Robinson, after siblings Edgar, Frank, Matthew (nicknamed "Mack"), and Willa Mae.Rampersad, p. 15.Bigelow, p. 225. His middle name was in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who died twenty-five days before Robinson was born.Eig, p. 7. After Robinson’s father left the family in 1920, they moved to Pasadena, California.Rampersad, pp. 15–18Robinson, Jackie, p. 9. The extended Robinson family established itself on a residential plot containing two small houses at 121 Pepper Street in Pasadena. Robinson’s mother worked various odd jobs to support the family.Eig, p. 8. Growing up in relative poverty in an otherwise affluent community, Robinson and his minority friends were excluded from many recreational opportunities.Robinson, Rachel, p. 17. As a result, Robinson joined a neighborhood gang, but his friend Carl Anderson persuaded him to abandon it.Rampersad, pp. 33–35.Eig, p. 10.

John Muir High School

In 1935, Robinson graduated from Washington Junior High School and enrolled at John Muir High School (Muir Tech).Rampersad, p. 36. Recognizing his athletic talents, Robinson’s older brothers Mack (himself an accomplished athlete and silver medalist at the 1936 Summer Olympics) and Frank inspired Jackie to pursue his interest in sports. At Muir Tech, Robinson played several sports at the varsity level and lettered in four of them: football, basketball, track, and baseball. He played shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team, and guard on the basketball team. With the track and field squad, he won awards in the broad jump. He was also a member of the tennis team.Rampersad, pp. 36–37.

In 1936, Robinson won the junior boys singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament and earned a place on the Pomona annual baseball tournament all-star team, which included future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bob Lemon.Rampersad, p. 37. In late January 1937, the Pasadena Star-News newspaper reported that Robinson "for two years has been the outstanding athlete at Muir, starring in football, basketball, track, baseball and tennis."Rampersad, p. 39.

Pasadena Junior College

After Muir, Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College (PJC), where he continued his athletic career by participating in basketball, football, baseball, and track.Rampersad, pp. 40–41. On the football team, he played quarterback and safety. He was a shortstop and leadoff hitter for the baseball team, and he broke school broad-jump records held by his brother Mack. As at Muir High School, most of Jackie’s teammates were white. While playing football at PJC, Robinson suffered a fractured ankle, complications from which would eventually delay his deployment status while in the military.Falkner, p. 44. Also while at PJC, he was elected to the Lancers, a student-run police organization responsible for patrolling various school activities.Rampersad, p. 47. In 1938, he was elected to the All-Southland Junior College Team for baseball and selected as the region’s Most Valuable Player.Robinson, Rachel, p. 20.Rampersad, p. 54. That year, Robinson was one of ten students named to the school’s Order of the Mast and Dagger (Omicron Mu Delta), awarded to students performing "outstanding service to the school and whose scholastic and citizenship record is worthy of recognition."Rampersad, pp. 59–60.