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Jackie Robinson, The Legend Who Changed Major League Baseball

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, also known as Jackie Robinson was a legendary baseball player who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball by becoming the first Black American to be in the MLB. However, Robinson wasn't just any ordinary baseball player.

Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919, and grew up in Cairo, Georgia. During high school he played many sports like baseball, basketball, football and track. He was also named the state's MVP in 1938. He attended UCLA, where he was the university's first student to win varsity letters in four sports. In the 1940s Robinson met his future wife, Rachel Isum, when they were attending UCLA and got married in 1946. However he had to drop out of UCLA just shy of graduation because he didn't have enough money. After moving to Honolulu Hawaii, Robinson played football for the semi-professional league but his season was cut short as the United States entered WWII. He was drafted to the war from 1942 to 1944 and served as a second lieutenant but never fought in combat. After he was discharged from the army, Robinson began to play baseball but at that time baseball was segregated and white and Black people played in different leagues.

Robinson started his pro career in the Negro leagues and played for the Kansas City Monarchs. The president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, wanted to get Robinson to join the MLB to prove to the world that Black Americans can play baseball with white Americans. But Rickey knew that it would be difficult for Robinson so he personally tested him to see his reaction when being called racial slurs. He also asked Robinson to promise to avoid fighting back when faced with racism. Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Robinson was faced with racism from the beginning of his career. Some of his new teammates refused to play with a Black American on their team. People in crowds often insulted him and he and his family received death threats. Many opposing teams refused and threatened not to play with Robinson and even his teammates sat out in games. Despite the insults, he continued to play. Though in one infamous game when fans were harassing Robinson, team captain Peewee Reese walked over to him and put his arm around him as a gesture signifying peace, a moment that became legendary in baseball history.

Robinson was a talented player who batted 0.297 and hit 12 home runs, led the National League, and got rookie of the year which led the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant. He became a hero in baseball and gave more Black athletes a chance to play in the MLB. On Jan. 5, 1957, Robinson retired. In his 10-year career Robinson won several awards and won six world series. In total, he had 197 stolen bases, 1,518 hits and 137 homeruns.

After baseball, Robinson worked for the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company. Although Robinson retired, people still sent him death threats and insulted him so he and his wife Rachel got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Robinson and Rachel had three children together: Jack Robinson Jr, Sharon and David. But in 1971, Jack, who was the oldest, drove at high speed and crashed into a wall which led to his death at the age of 24. On the early morning of Oct. 24, 1972, Robinson died at the age of 53, due to a heart attack. His funeral was held at the Riverside Church in New York City a few days later. On that day, thousands of people crowded outside and in nearby streets to honor and celebrate the life of Jackie Robinson, the first Black American to join the MLB and one of the most heroic figures of baseball.

[Source: Biography.com]

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