The clouds move and the sun shines down on to the fans that are sweating and watching anxiously as Jackie Robinson steps on the field for the last time. The grass folds under the footsteps of a champion. Those same steps stole numerous bases at the height of his career and now they are feeble and ache from years of playing. Fans stare as they see Jackie step up to the mound and take the ball for the last time in his well-worn hands that have been hardened by swing after swing of the bat. The onlookers still watch as the ball eaves his hands on its way to the catcher. When the ball collides with the glove they remember a young man from Georgia who stoop up against segregation and racism and changed the way we live. Jackie Robinson influenced the modern day Black society by breaking the laws of segregation and becoming one of America’s greatest baseball heroes.
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Jack Roosevelt Robinson was a fighter from the day he was born on January 31, 1919. His parents made a living as sharecroppers in the small town of Cairo, Georgia housing five children under one roof. After his father’s death in 1920 Mrs. Robinson, a strong and proud woman, packed up the family and moved to Pasadena, California were they would start their new lives. When Jackie was old enough he worked shining shoes and doing other jobs to help support his family. Left with out a father Jackie idolized his brother Mark. Mark being the father figure at the time got Jackie interested in sports (Lincoln Sports Library 84).
When he reached Muir High School, Jackie was already an all-round athlete. He participated in almost all extracurricular sports and showed talent in every walk of life. After high school he attended Pasadena Junior College, but soon transferred to UCLA. Through all this time he still supported the family as well as worked to put himself through school (Lincoln Sports Library 86).
The happiest times of Robinson’s life were spent on the grassy fields and the crowded classes at UCLA. UCLA had little racial discrimination at the time, which was quite different than other schools in that area. Jackie Robinson thrived in college where he became one of the greatest athletes in the history of the university. In football he was an All-American as a quarterback. During his basketball days, he led the Pacific Coast League in scoring, and in track he broke the conference record in the broad jump. During all his achievements and recognitions baseball was his true love. Robinson attended UCLA for 2 years, and during that time he met Rachel Isum, his soon to be wife. Rachel would be his biggest supporter and best moral support in the early years of his big-league career (Lincoln Sports Library 86).
World War II broke out shortly after he filled a position at a youth camp, as the athletic director. Jackie found himself in the army for 3 years as an officer. During his time in the army Robinson faced discrimination and segregation like non other he had faced in his life. After being involved in several allegations, he was acquitted and got an honorable discharge in 1944 (Lincoln Sports Library 86).
After leaving the army, Robinson signed to play with the Kansas City Monarchs a strong Negro League team. Jackie played second base for the Monarchs for one year. During these years he developed baseball smarts and an eye for the game. A man named Branch Rickey approached Jackie and invited him to become the first black to play in the majors. Branch Rickey was president of the Dodgers and was the mind behind bringing Robinson into the majors. He planned to break down the segregation and racism that troubled America. He planned to break down the “Jim Crow” laws (Lincoln Sports Library 86).
Emancipation ended slavery, but not its legacy. “Jim Crow” was not a person yet affected the lives of millions of people. The laws were named after a popular 19th century minstrel song that stereotyped African Americans. “Jim Crow” came to personify the segregation and racial oppressions in the United States government (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/).
Rickey searched long and hard for the right man for the job. He searched for a player who could take abuse, name calling, rejection, and who would not fight back. Even work with players on his own team, even if they didn’t want to be on his team. Spirit was a strong point of Jackie, and he needed it to survive in the lion’s cage. He could not be an “uncle tom” who would strain under the pressure. After Rickey had searched the country his eyes fell upon a young second baseman that wore the number 42 (Lincoln Sports Library 87).
“When Jackie asked the Dodger president if he wanted a black that was afraid to fight back, Rickey exploded, ”Robinson, I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” (Lincoln Sports Library 87).
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