By Kartik S.
Jackie Robinson was the first African American to join an all-white sport league in 1945. In the beginning, it wasn't easy for Robinson and many spectators and players loathed him. Yet Robinson never gave up and continued to play. This made African Americans more confident to join all-white sport leagues, which led to the breaking of the color barrier for all sports. Today, Robinson's lasting legacy allows blacks and whites to play in sports together. For this reason alone, Robinson may have been the most influential and effective athlete in United States history.
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, in 1919 to a sharecropping family. He moved to Pasadena, California, with his mother, Mallie, in 1920. He played baseball, basketball, and football at UCLA, but had to leave college for financial reasons in 1941. Robinson joined the Army in 1942 during World War II.
Robinson first joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League and soon became the league's top player. Shortly afterwards, Robinson met the Dodgers president, Branch Rickey, who wanted to recruit an African American for the Dodgers. In 1945, Robinson signed a contract with Rickey to play for one of the Dodgers' farm teams, the Montreal Royals. Many sports players and writers were against the integration because they feared it would destroy major league baseball, but Rickey and Robinson did not back down.
Robinson faced hardships being the first African American on an all-white major sports team, but he persevered. Fans of both races filled the seats eager to see Robinson in action, and the majority of his teammates supported him after he convinced them of his value to the team. Robinson achieved Rookie of the Year in 1947. In 1949 he was at his peak and was known worldwide. He had a string of six consecutive seasons batting over .300 and became renowned for his daring steals of home.
Robinson was able to be a strong defender of the civil rights program. He experienced segregation laws that forbid him to ride on the same buses, eat at same hotels, and even lodge at the same hotels with fellow teammates. He was also forced to tolerate racial taunts from the audience and his own teammates, some who tried to circulate a petition to get him off the team. These experiences made him a voice for equal rights.
After his career, Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1972, he was asked to throw out the ball to begin the second game of 75th World Series at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, two weeks later he died in his home at Connecticut.
Before Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, sport leagues were segregated by race. He led the way for racial integration of sports to begin and other African Americans to join all-white sports teams. He broke the color barrier for sports and athletes of all races owe him a debt of gratitude.