The first mention of Jackie Robinson that I can find in newspapers came in 1937 when he was 17.
(I know there were earlier mentions in the local Pasadena, California paper, but the Internet, like Monday morning coffee, can take you only so far.)
So, in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, I give you these early – but not the earliest – mentions of Jackie Robinson …
On January 13, 1937, Robinson, playing for Pasadena, California’s John Muir Tech, is in a box score in the Los Angeles Times in a basketball game between Muir Tech and Hoover.
Muir Tech’s Terriers won 29-27.
Another mention turns up in a Covina, California Argus story on the high school basketball team which notes Muir Tech’s “sensational colored ace” Jackie Robinson.
Robinson, having moved from guard to forward that season, appears again in the Argus, when John Muir Tech defeats Covina 51-26.
“In a short time, however, Jackie Robinson, Muir’s ‘black lightning’ had passed the ball through the hoop twice.”
While at Muir Tech, he lettered in baseball, basketball, football, and track.
Muir Tech yearbook
Muir Tech Varsity Baseball
You may bid on a 1937 Muir Tech yearbook, which Robinson autographed, here.
“Best of luck, Jack Robinson”
Just a few days after that Covina game, Robinson turned 18 and left Muir Tech to enroll at Pasadena Junior College. In 1939, he enrolled at UCLA and became UCLA’s first athlete to letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.
Pasadena Junior College yearbook
Robinson was drafted in 1942 and served as an officer in the military.
He was court-martialed in 1944 when he refused to move to the back of a military bus. As his statement at the time described it:
“The bus driver asked me for my identification card. I refused to give it to him. He then went to the Dispatcher and told him something. What he told him I don’t know. He then comes back and tells the people that this [n—] is making trouble. I told the driver to stop f–in with me, so he gets the rest of the men around there and starts blowing his top and someone calls the MP’s.”
Robinson was exonerated.
Everyone knows what happens next, right? He went on to a career in baseball. He broke major league baseball’s color barrier when he was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Upon retirement he became a vice president of the Chock full o’Nuts coffee company.
None of it was easy. His entire life, it seems, was defined by the color of his skin and the inequalities of race in our nation.
You knew all of that.
But, it’s still important to remember it … and to repeat it, even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before.
We honor Jackie Robinson for what he did with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. But, we know his legacy is much broader and more important than just that.
Today every major league player will wear Robinson’s number – 42.
Here he is …
“It’s a natural fact when Jackie comes to bat, the other team is through.”
What can you say about Jackie Robinson that hasn’t already been said?
I don’t know. But, I know I can say “Thank you, Jackie Robinson.” Everybody should say that.