By joining the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1947, Jackie Robinson brought down the color line by becoming the first African-American player in the 20th century to play professional baseball since Cap Anson set that barrier using ugly language back in the 1880’s.
Jackie Robinson not only changed baseball but he helped change the world. He once said “A life is only as important as the impact it has on other lives” and it is truly poetic as being his own personal mission statement.
When one thinks about baseball and the color line, Robinson’s name immediately comes up. One would need to do research to
discover the first black players to enter football (Charles Follis), basketball (Earl Lloyd) or hockey (Willie O’Ree).
I don’t recall if it was teammate Duke Snider or Carl Erskine but someone once claimed that Jackie was a better ballplayer when he was angry. He took out his anger by playing harder and using that aggression to beat his opponents on the playing field.
The problem I see and feel sorry for the most with Jackie is that he never seemed to stop being angry. He understood his role in Branch Rickey’s “great experiment” and carried his race on his back throughout not only his baseball career but throughout his entire life. Some say they think his internal anger helped to kill him at the early age of 53. He suffered from diabetes but I tend to believe that Robinson never learned to take the burden he carried for his people off his shoulders.
After retiring from baseball, Robinson served as vice president of personnel with the coffee company Chock Full O’ Nuts. He tried opening a bank for blacks. He tried selling life insurance to blacks as it was difficult to get coverage. He tried his hand at franchising a Sea Host restaurant which was similar to Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips. Nothing he did outside of baseball was ever able to make up for what he did in baseball and, as sportswriter Dick Young pointed out, that was the real tragedy of being Jackie Robinson. He couldn’t give up the fight because that’s all he ever knew how to do.
He stayed quite active in civil rights. He enjoyed politics. He led picket lines. He traveled to the deep South in support of Dr.
Martin Luther King during the turbulent 1960’s. If he had nothing left to fight for, he was lost.
Adjectives that describe Jackie Robinson include courageous, dedicated and trailblazer.
Other words could be stubborn, hot-tempered and narrow-minded.
Any way that you look at it, Jackie Robinson was an original.