April 15 – Jackie Robinson Day

Posted on April 15, 2016

I already wrote about Jackie Robinson breaking “the color barrier” in baseball, here and here

Did you know that Major League Baseball celebrates the anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut?

On Opening Day, April 15, 1947, Robinson first played in the Majors, thus ending eight decades of racial segregation. 

He had to be brave and calm to stand up to all the hateful words – and sometimes things – that were hurled at him. He did great with the bravery, astonishingly well with the calmness, and superbly with the baseball.

Eventually (1962) Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and later still (April 15, 1997) his number, 42, was retired throughout ALL of MLB!

That's never been done before.

So from then on no player, on any team, would ever wear the number 42 on his jersey. But on Jackie Robinson Day, all players, coaches, and managers of both teams, and umpires as well, wear #42 on their jerseys!

Breaking the color barrier – also expressed as crossing the color line – is considered an important event, not just for baseball, but for the whole country. A year after Robinson began the integration of baseball, President Truman integrated the military, and in 1950 the National Basketball Association signed several black players. Less than a decade after Robinson's debut, the Supreme Court ruled for integration of public schools.

(Actually, professional football broke the color barrier before Robinson's debut, with the Los Angeles Rams leading the way in 1945 by signing two black players. I'm not sure why this didn't have the impact of baseball's integration.)

Still, it is Robinson who, many say, “changed the face of American sports.” Documentary film maker Ken Burns has called Jackie Robinson “the most important person in the history of American sports.”

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