Mythical baseball icons like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays may be credited as some of the greatest MLB players to ever take the field, only one athlete changed the course of America’s pastime; none other than the legend, Jackie Robinson. Remembered as a courageous sports hero, Robinson challenged the world, persevered through an unthinkable amount of controversy, and broke baseball’s color barrier during the height of United States civil unrest. The former Brooklyn Dodgers star not only reshaped the game of baseball forever, but provided MLB fans with some of the most incredible moments the field has ever witnessed.
After completing a historic college sports career at UCLA, becoming the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports, Jackie Robinson spent several years playing professional baseball across the country in the Negro Leagues. In a famous discussion with Brooklyn Dodgers president, Jackie Robinson became the first African American baseball player to sign with an MLB team in over half a century and began his journey in the Minor Leagues. Despite the many challenges posed by racial segregation in the Minors, Robinson continued to chase his dreams and finally got his shot in the Majors in 1947.
Although he faced endless racial slurs and ample disrespect from across the MLB, including players, managers, and fans, the Brooklyn Dodgers newest star would not let his critics affect his play on the field. Robinson capped off an extraordinary rookie season at first base with 175 hits for a .297 batting average and a league leading 29 stolen bases. Those spectacular numbers at the plate and stellar play in the infield earned Jackie Robinson the Rookie of the Year Award for the 1947 MLB season, as well as a top five finish in MVP voting.
Following his second-to-none rookie campaign, Jackie Robinson continued to dominate the baseball diamond and his best seasons were yet to come. The 1949 MLB season marked the year in which Robinson would take his game from above-average to legendary. In his third year as a member of the Dodgers, MLB’s first African American player since the 1800’s topped the league at the plate with a .342 batting average and a career high of 37 stolen bases. That season’s National League MVP reached the 200 hit milestone for the only season of the Brooklyn hero’s decade of play and was named to his first of six consecutive Major League Baseball All-Star Games.
Throughout his ten seasons of Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six world championship appearances and finally took home a ring at the1955 World Series. The Dodgers second baseman also consistently led the league statistically in just about every MLB season during his career. Regardless of his extensive list of MLB achievements, Jackie Robinson’s most important feat from his entire illustrious career was successfully breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Becoming the first African American player in the Major Leagues since 1880, Robinson faced a country full of critics at the peak of racial tension in the United States and fearlessly took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson paved the way for many of the most outstanding players in all of baseball history to create their legacies in Major League Baseball. Without the determination and courage of Jackie Robinson, the game of baseball would not be what it is today. In honor of his contributions to sports history, Jackie Robinson’s famous #42 was universally retired by all Major League Baseball franchises for the rest of time and became the first professional athlete to receive such a high honor. As a man that completely reformed baseball forever, Jackie Robinson live on as a sports legacy for bringing a diverse group of people together to share their common love for the game.