Each year, on April 15, major league baseball commemorates Jackie Robinson’s debut in the majors – the day that baseball was, finally, integrated.
Today, every major league player in every major league game will wear Jackie’s number, 42.
(This will make things confusing for your scorecard, I know, but remember, this is an important day, so just roll with it.)
Everyone knows that Jackie was a Brooklyn Dodger.
You might already know these 10 other things, too. But, just in case, here’s some Robinsonian facts from the nooks and crannies of trivia …
1) Jackie’s middle name is Roosevelt, in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt.
2) Jackie’s older brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson was a star track and field athlete.
Mack Robinson won the silver medal in the 200 meter race in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, finishing 0.4 seconds behind Jesse Owens.
3) Jackie excelled in many sports, including track and field. He was the NCAA champion in the long jump in 1940 and it’s thought he would have been a strong contender for a gold medal had the 1940 Olympics not been cancelled due to War World II.
4) Jackie and his wife Rachel always fondly recalled his minor league playing days in Montreal and how integrated and welcoming the community was to them.
Rachel once said: “When I hear of bad things that are happening in other places – where people are fighting or being violent and are trying to exclude African-Americans – I think back to the days in Montreal. It was almost blissful.”
A 2013 article in Canada’s Globe & Mail has more on the Robinson’s days in Montreal here.
5) While Ebbets Field could hold more than 32,000 fans, only some 26,000 showed up for Robinson’s Dodgers debut versus the Boston Braves on Opening Day, April 15, 1947.
Reasons cited for the less-than-capacity crowd included – 1) white fans boycotted the game (14,000 of the 26,000 at the game that day were black), 2) fans assumed the game had already sold out so didn’t bother to even try to go, 3) there was no indication that Robinson would actually play in the game, and 4) a small pox outbreak in the city had frightened New Yorkers.
Your guess is as good as mine, but there’s probably a lot of truth to that first reason. (And, maybe a little to that last one, too.)
6) Robinson started at first base that day and went 0-for-3 at the plate. Dodgers radio announcer Red Barber described Robinson to radio listeners as “very definitely brunette.”
7) Robinson’s first hit came in his next game against the Braves on a cold and rainy April 17. It was a bunt down the third base line.
8) After his playing days, Robinson continued to be a prominent civil rights leader and became the first African-American to become a Vice President of a major corporation when he was named VP at Chock full o’Nuts Coffee Company.
9) The Jackie Robinson Museum is set to open on the corner of Canal and Varick Streets in lower Manhattan in 2019.
10) Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and their children Sharon and David, will be at CitiField today for the Mets versus Brewers game.
Jackie Robinson changed baseball. He changed sports. He changed America.
Jackie Robinson is why baseball is never just a game. It’s a reflection of our nation and who we are. And, sometimes, it’s a doorway to things that are far more important than just nine innings.
Thank you, Jackie.