Jackie Robinson Facts


January 31, 1919, Cairo, Georgia.


October 24, 1972, Stamford, Connecticut


First African-American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century

Years Played

April 15, 1947 to October 10, 1956


Brooklyn Dodgers

Jackie Robinson summary

Jackie Robinson is remembered as the man who broke the color barrier in major league baseball and was the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1962). His outstanding career with the Brooklyn Dodgers and his dignity in facing the insults and threats that were hurled at him broke down the racial barriers in “America’s Pastime” and opened the way for black players who followed. In his later years he worked as a business executive and was a spokesperson for civil rights, black athletes and other causes. Although Robinson is often called the first black player in the major leagues, Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker, a catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884, had an Irish father and African American mother who had been a slave. Walker’s brief career, however, did not lead to additional black baseball players in the major leagues; Robinson’s did.

Born Jack Roosevelt Robinson on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, the future baseball great was the grandson of a slave and the fifth child of a sharecropper. His brother Mack would win a Silver Medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, finishing behind Jesse Owens.The children  were raised by their mother in a white, middle-class neighborhood in Pasadena, California, after his father deserted the family.

At John Muir High School, he exhibited remarkable versatility as an athlete, playing on the baseball, football, basketball and track teams. His athletic prowess brought him college scholarships, first to Pasadena Junior College and then to the University of California at Los Angeles; the latter school was founded the same year he was born. At UCLA, he became the first and only player ever to letter in four different sports and won All-American honors as a football player. Twice in basketball he led the Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division in scoring. On the track team, he won PCC and NCAA broad jump competitions. Financial hardships forced him to leave UCLA just shy of graduating, and for a short time he played semi-professional football with the Honolulu Bears, a career that ended when America entered World War II. He had left Pearl Harbor, bound for the U.S. mainland, two days before the Japanese attacked Pearl.

Robinson joined the U.S. Army and was promoted to second lieutenant but never saw combat. While stationed in Texas he refused to move to the back of a military bus and was courtmartialed, though he was eventually acquitted and was honorably discharged in 1944.

The year 1945 was a memorable one for Jackie Robinson. On February 10 he married Rachel Isum, and they had their first child on November 18. He signed with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Baseball League, in an era when professional baseball was racially segregated. Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw him play with the Monarchs and signed him to the Montreal Royals farm team on October 23, for a $3,500 bonus and $600 a month. John Wright, another African American, was also on the Royals’ roster.

He played his first game for the Royals on April 18, 1946, at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. In his autobiography, My Own Story, he recalled, “Although I was wearing the colors of the enemy, the Jersey City fans gave me a fine ovation.” When he hit a three-run homer in the third, “Once again those Jersey City fans cheered and applauded.” In this debut, he went 4-for-5, hit one home run, scored four runs, had four RBIs, two stolen bases and two forced balks as Montreal outscored the Giants 14–1. Montreal would go on to win the Little World Series that year, and Jackie reigned as the International League batting champion, earning a .349 average in 124 games.

Other cities’ fans would not be as welcoming as those in Jersey City, both during his time with Montreal and later with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he became the only black player in modern baseball’s major leagues. Rickey had warned him to expect abuse, andRobinson was often taunted from the bleachers, especially during away games. He and his family were threatened. But Rickey had him promise not to respond, Robinson kept his temper.

His big-league debut came on April 15, 1947, playing for the Dodgers against the Boston Braves at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. He went 0–3 and scored one run. The following month, the St. Louis Cardinals threatened to strike rather than allow a black player in their game with Brooklyn. Supported by Dodgers’ manager Leo Durocher, National League President Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler and others, however, Robinson gradually won over fans with his athletic skill, helping the Dodgers win the national League pennant during his first year with the team (and the World Series in 1955) and being named the first-ever major league Rookie of the Year. In 1949 he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. That same year a popular song, “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” reached number 13 on music charts.

Robinson became the highest-paid player in Dodgers history but was traded to the New York Giants in 1956; he retired shortly thereafter. He found new careers in the business world, including serving as director of personnel and spokesperson for the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company.

His quiet dignity and superior skills opened the door to major league ball for other black players, including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Satchel Paige. He became a spokesman for civil rights and other causes.

Jackie Robinson died in Stamford, Connecticut, on October 24, 1972, suffering from heart and diabetes-related problems. On March 2, 2005, President George W. Bush presented members of Robinson’s family with the Congressional Gold Medal, commissioned as the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.