One of the Most Influential Athletes


Many athletes over the years have had a massive impact on sports. Jackie Robinson is one of these influential athletes due to the difficulties of becoming a professional baseball player in the MLB (Major League Baseball) as a person of color during this time and many other struggles along the way.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919, being the youngest of four other siblings. He was raised in relative poverty by his single mother in Cairo, Georgia. Robinson’s skills and love for sports became evident when he attended Pasadena Junior College, where he played football, basketball, track, and baseball. In 1936, Robinson’s older brother, Matthew, won a silver medal for the 200-meter dash in the Olympics in Berlin. This inspired Robinson and motivated him to work harder. Only two years later, he was named the region’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in baseball. His brother’s achievement had an impact on Jackie that lasted throughout his life. The next year, in 1939, Robinson attended UCLA where he was the first student to win varsity letters in four different sports. But, in 1941, he was forced to leave due to financial struggles.

After leaving UCLA, he played for a semi-pro football team called the Honolulu Bears. However, this only lasted a bit. On April 3, 1941, Jackie Robinson was drafted into the army for World War ll. He served from 1941-1944 as a second lieutenant, so he never saw any combat. During his final year there, he was arrested due to refusing to sit in the back of a military bus. When he left the army, he began to play baseball professionally, but during this time, African Americans and Whites played in separate leagues. In spite of this, Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to place his bet on Robinson. He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a team a part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league, angering many teammates and fans. The next year, he joined the official Brooklyn Dodgers MLB team and played his first game on April 15, 1947, making him the first-ever Black athlete to play in the MLB. During his first year, he hit 12 home runs, had a batting average of .297, and led the league in stolen bases, helping the Dodgers win the National League pennant. Due to this, he was elected Rookie of the Year. His impressive abilities were a surprise to both players and fans. His career in the MLB ended when he retired on Jan 5, 1957, after being drafted to the New York Giants.

Both before and after Robinson’s retirement, he continued his work as a civil rights activist. Although his early work helped deal with some racial injustices, he wanted to have a greater impact on racial integration in sports and succeeded. But, his work came to an end on October 24, 1972, when he died due to heart issues and other complications. Following his death in 1972, Rachel, his wife, created the Jackie Robinson Foundation to honor Robinson and helped people in need by providing scholarships and other programs. His accomplishments and career in the MLB also had a long-lasting impact. Robinson gave hope to people who wanted to pursue a similar career but were afraid due to not looking a certain way. His story inspired other upcoming athletes such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr. to pursue their passion for playing professional sports. His life is still recognized today due to Jackie Robinson Day, which was established on April 15, 2004.