Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. His parents were Jerry and Mallie Robinson. They lived on a small farm and worked as sharecroppers. Sharecroppers are people who rent land and pay the owner of the land some of their crops. After about a year of his life his father left his family of five children.
Jackie and his family took a train and moved to Pasadena, California, because they were very low on money. He and his family lived there in an apartment that his half-brother McGriff owned. McGriff said he would let Jackie Robinson's family stay until they could find a house. His family finally found a house to live in. The neighborhood was very bad, where many boys broke the laws. But there was a man named Earl Anderson who helped to develop a sports organization which Jackie and other boys found great.
Jackie went to a public school in California that was not segregated like the schools in Georgia. He was not allowed to swim in pools though. He was hurt and confused in his young life because blacks could not do the same things as whites. Thankfully Jackie did not strike back at whites. As he got older he realized he would keep fighting for the blacks liberty. Jackie had a nine-year-old brother, named Mack, that was a role model for him because his father was not around. Mack won a silver Medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1936: Olympics.
Jackie went to Cleveland Elementary School and continued his studies at Pasemada Junior High School. He was a star athlete. He was the best in the school at baseball, football, basketball, and track. Jackie later attended Muir Technical High School where he set records in track and baseball. He went on to earn a scholarship to UCLA. He became a star athlete on the basketball, football, baseball, and track teams at UCLA. Because of financial problems Jackie Robinson had to leave college before he could receive his degree. He served as an athletic director for the National Youth Administration, a US government agency, in 1941. He was then asked to play for a charity football team, The Bulldogs, in Los Angeles for a year.
After playing for the Bulldogs, Jackie enlisted in the Army during World War II. He was a lieutenant. He was later discharged late in 1944. Because of this Jackie decided to coach basketball for Samuel Houston College in Texas. After he had finished coaching basketball he played in the Negro Leagues. In 1945 Jackie played baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs, of the Negro Leagues. There were 2,000 players in the Negro Leagues. He played among some of the greatest baseball players of all time: Satch Paige, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and others. The players in the Negro Leagues did not get much money, so some of the players would play three games a day.
The Negro Leagues ended in 1960. Most of the players in the Negro Leagues never had a chance to play in the Major Leagues. Many years later the Baseball Hall of Fame started to honor blacks that had not played in the Major Leagues.
Branch Rickey was the general manager of the Dodgers. He went on a search to find a baseball player in the Negro Leagues who could play in the Minor Leagues and not cause a problem. He had a meeting with Jackie on October 23, 1945. Mr. Rickey said when they met, "I need a man with the courage not to fight back!" Jackie replied, " If you take this gamble, I will do my best."(Golenbock 1990) They then shook hands. The contract that Jackie and Branch Rickey signed said Jackie would start playing in 1946. From then on in the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues fans spit and cursed at him, and some threatened to kill him. Opponents tried to knock him down on purpose. Pitchers would throw baseballs at his head, or the players on the other team would get into fist fights with him. Despite all this, Jackie kept on playing. He was not going to let anything stop him. At first Jackie played for the Dodgers minor league team, the Montreal Royals. Branch Rickey was the General Manager and President of the Dodgers. Jackie proved to be the perfect choice. Jackie led the team to the team championship.
Jackie began playing for the Major League Dodgers in 1947. He attended the opening game and was the second batter for the Dodgers. The Dodgers played against the Boston Braves. The crowd at the opening game was about 26,623 people. The pitcher that Jackie faced was Johnny Sain. Jackie hit a grounder to third on his first hit. He then hit a fly ball to left field. On his third hit he hit a double. Jackie played as an infielder in his first game. During the first game there was a man named Ben Chapman, the Braves manager, that got on Jackie's nerves. He said during the game, " Hey nigger why don't you go back to the cotton field where you belong." (Virginia Pilot Sports l997) One of Jackie's teammates was Eddie Stanky. He also was an enemy of Jackie. He said before the opening game, " Before I play with you I want you to know how I feel about it. I want you to know I don't like it. I want you to know I don't like you." (Virginia Pilot Sports 1997) He later defended Jackie when he was criticized by other players. Pee Wee Reese was also on the Dodgers team and became one of Jackie's best friends. In the first game Pee Wee walked over to Jackie Robinson and said, " I am standing by him. This is my teammate." (Golenbock 1990) When Pee Wee said that, gasps rose from the crowd and then there was silence. The Dodgers won their first game. Johnny Sain then found out after the game, that Jackie could figure out what Johnny was pitching. Jackie wrote on a piece of paper " Johnny was throwing curves the whole game."(Virginia Pilot Sports 1997) He had a great first season with the Dodgers. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year, and was also named the most valuable player of the Year.
Jackie had ten great seasons with the Dodgers. He batted .311 with 1518 hits. He hit 273 doubles, 54 triples, and 137 home runs. He stole 197 bases and had 734 RBI's. Jackie led the Dodgers to six World Series titles. In 1956 Jackie was traded to the New York Giants. He refused to be traded and this ended his career. He retired with the Dodgers in 1956.
After Jackie retired he worked for many different places. First, he did public relations work for a restaurant chain. He was then helpful in the Civil Rights Movement. He then worked for New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. He was also an author of newspaper articles and he did television commentary. He had a heart attack in 1968, but he recovered from it and he was at the opening World Series game marking the 25th anniversary of black, major league baseball.
Jackie Robinson died shortly after he had a heart attack on October 24, 1972. There is a wrought iron gate and marble benches at the entrance of his grave. A few feet away lies a grave stone with the family name carved in it. In granite it says, "A life is not important except in the line of impact it has on other lives." (Virginia Pilot Sports 1997) His grave stone is in Cypress Hills Seminary. It is 16 miles away from Ebbets Field. His grave stone took a long time to get to Cypress Hills because it was displayed in parades around many blacks neighborhoods.
1997 commemorated Jackie Robinson's 50th anniversary of being the first black player to play in the Major Leagues. Many tributes to Jackie took place. Players will wore a patch stating the anniversary and it had Jackie's signature. The baseball Hall of Fame also had an exhibit on Jackie Robinson, and there was a souvenir coin made for Jackie.