Jackie Robinson Day is April 15 every year. We celebrate the debut of one of the biggest icons of Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson. Born to sharecroppers in segregated Georgia, Jackie Robinson rose to the country’s greatest heights of professional athletics. Robinson set multiple records and lived a life glittered with many firsts. He was the first Black player to be selected for Major League Baseball and was also the first Black lieutenant to protest the laws of segregation on an army bus. Later in life, he became the first Black American to assume the post of vice president of a major corporation. On and off the field, Robinson remained a hero. As he put his baseball cap down in 1957, he became an active participant in politics and supported many Black causes. Coaches, players, commentators, and fans dress uniformly in 42 jerseys to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day.
History of Jackie Robinson Day
Jack ‘Jackie’ Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, to a sharecropper family in Georgia. Soon after the abandonment of his father, his family moved to California. Robinson bore the brunt of segregation from a very early age in life. He and his fellow African American friends were excluded from opportunities and remained confined to their homes.
Robinson’s inclination to sports began soon after his enrollment into the John Muir High School. With a push from his elder brothers, Mark and Frank, he started paying serious attention to his athletic abilities. Within months, he was lettered in all four varsity level sports: baseball, football, basketball, and track. Racking up medals and victory certificates in every sport he was enlisted in, he eventually picked baseball and was elected the Most Valuable Player of the 1938 All-Southland Junior College Baseball Team. In the following years, he was drafted into the army as a second lieutenant.
A pivotal moment in 1944 changed the course of his life. A year into his enlistment, Jackie refused to move to the back of a segregated military bus. He was court-martialed after his act of rebellion and was levied with ludicrous charges. Not only did the incident get him out of the army and back into the baseball field, but it also informed him of the lifelong struggle for Black equality and liberation. After an honorable discharge from the army, he started playing state-level baseball with the Negro American League and caught the eye of Brooklyn Dodger’s general manager, Branch Rickey.
In his personal quest for integration in baseball, Rickey enlisted Robinson — making him the first Black athlete to cross the segregation line to become a Major League Baseball player. On the field, Jackie was an immediate success. In 1949, his team won the championship, and he was voted M.V.P.
Robinson never took for granted the gravity of his role in the determination of African American athletes. He saw himself as an instrument of change and withstood years of racist abuse, sloganeering, and physical assault. His talent made it easier for the M.L.B. management to back him against his unsupportive teammates. After leading a stunning career in baseball, Robinson understood that this was only the first innings of his life. Immediately after his retirement, he threw himself into political activism and championed many Black causes.
In 1997, 50 years after an epic match that broke the segregation lines of Major League Basketball, commissioner Bob Selig retired jersey no. 42 from all teams. In 2004, M.L.B. officially declared April 14, the day of Jackie’s debut, as Jackie Robinson Day.
Jackie Robinson Day timeline
Robinson is born to a humble family of sharecroppers in the segregated state of Georgia.
Decades before Rosa Parks, Robinson refuses to cede his chair on a military bus and ends up getting court-martialed.
Robinson makes his debut as the first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Major League Baseball announces the commemoration of his debut on April 15, 1947, as Jackie Robinson Day.
Jackie Robinson Day FAQs
Is the number 42 retired from the entire M.L.B.?
Yes. The 42 number jersey was permanently retired from Major League Baseball in 1977. Players who already had 42 were allowed to continue, but new issues under that numerical were outlawed.
When did Jackie Robinson hit his first home run?
Robinson scored his first home run against the New York Giants on April 18, 1947.
What is the batting average of Jackie Robinson?
Robinson’s batting average stands at 313. He played 1,382 games in his decade-long professional career and hit 137 home runs for his team.
How to Observe Jackie Robinson Day
Robinson loved baseball and remained true to his passion until his final years. On April 15, raise a bat in his honor for a fun baseball game with friends and family.
Stand up for inequality
Robinson understood the racial realities that surrounded him and continued to be an instrument for change. In his diary, he once wrote, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
Watch the movie “42”
“42,” the 2013 release, is an essential watch for the fans of baseball and Robinson. The movie captures the full stretch of Robinson’s struggle and triumph — and is perfectly enacted by late Chadwick Boseman.
5 Important Facts About Jackie Robinson’s Achievements
Crossing the line
Robinson crossed the 40-year-old line of segregation and became the first Black player to play any major sports in America, paving the way for thousands of Black athletes.
Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year of eligibility, a feat untouched by anyone else in the game since.
Champion of championships
Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six pennants and a world championship, bringing the team into the national competitive spotlight for the first time.
Giving back to society
Jackie started the Jackie Robinson Construction Company in 1970 to build homes for low-income families.
More than an athlete
At the height of the civil rights protests of the 1960s, Jackie played a pivotal role in normalizing the integration for millions of Americans.
Why Jackie Robinson Day is Important
It’s a celebration of courage
As the first Black player in Major League Baseball, Robinson became the forebearer of intense racist abuse and insult. His own teammates refused to shake his hands after this first home run. Yet, Robinson epitomizes the courage it takes to overcome national hatred and prejudice.
It honors the best scorer of his time
Robinson dominated the game the moment he stepped into the field. He led his team to six league championships and the World Series Championship in 1955. His effortless batting style and insatiable hunger to be the best deserve an annual day of celebration.
It inspires us to never give up
Robinson’s story of rags to riches is an inspiration to us all. Fighting his way out of poverty, he crossed insurmountable odds to become one of the richest and most recognized Black Americans of his time.
Jackie Robinson Day dates