Jackie Robinson



On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) became the first African American to play in the Major League Baseball league. On that day, he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The so-called “colour-line” had existed in baseball and many other sports for decades in American sports: the complete segregation of whites and blacks into separate leagues and teams.  

There had been blacks in the sport of baseball for many years. In fact, in the nineteenth century blacks had played alongside whites in several leagues in the U.S. However, an 1896 court case reinforced the segregation baseball players according to the colour of their skin. As a result, black players were excluded from major league baseball, relegated either to the position of mascot for the Major League team, or forced to organize their own loosely structured “Negro” teams.  

Robinson, the son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, excelled in several sports before serving in the U.S. army. Initially a player in the Negro Leagues, Robinson played in a period when there was increasing support for breaking down the colour barrier. The Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager took on Robinson mainly because Robinson was a solid player, not because he was interested in challenging the colour barrier. Also, he felt it would increase attendance at the Brooklyn games, especially of African American fans.  

In 1946, Robinson went to Florida to play for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ farm team. This move was risky on Robinson’s part, as racism was still rampant in the U.S., especially in the South. In Florida, there were segregation laws that prohibited blacks and whites from sharing the same restaurants, hotels and other public places, including the baseball field. Robinson was forced to stay in a “coloureds-only” hotel. It was believed that there would be a greater chance of Robinson being integrated into the minor league in the more liberal and open environment of Canada.  

Eventually, Robinson played his way into the Major League. However, the transition was not a smooth one. In his first year, he had many pitches thrown his way and was regularly taunted by fans and players. However, his season was a successful one, and he was voted Rookie of the Year. Robinson’s Major League career lasted 10 years. Despite his initial success in breaking the colour line in baseball, it would take many decades before there would be complete acceptance of black players. To this day, there is under-representation of blacks in management and coaching positions in baseball.  

Robinson died in 1972. His headstone bears an epitaph that he wrote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

1 thought on “Jackie Robinson

  • colour-line

    American English
    the set of laws or social customs in some places that prevents people of different races from going to the same places or taking part in the same activities
    British Equivalent: colour bar


    segregation

    segregation
    when people of different races, sexes, or religions are kept apart so that they live, work, or study separately
    ᅳopposite integration racial segregation
    segregation of
    the segregation of men and women

    Another Source

    the separation of a social or racial group from others, esp. by the laws in some US states between 1896 and 1954 that prevented African-Americans from using the same schools, hotels, restaurants, seats in buses and in theaters and parks, etc., as other people
    USAGE The opposite of segregation is integration; however, desegregation is usu. used when someone is referring to getting rid of a system of segregation already in place, as in the US after 1954.


    alongside

    alongside
    used to say that people or things do something or exist together at the same time
    Charles spent a week working alongside the miners. Organized crime continued to flourish alongside the mainstream economy.


    exclude

    exclude
    to not allow someone to take part in something or not allow them to enter a place, especially in a way that seems wrong or unfair
    ᅳopposite include

    a mainstream exhibition that excluded women artists
    exclude somebody from (doing) something
    The press had been deliberately excluded from the event.
    Sarah heard the other girls talking and laughing and felt excluded.

    No one was excluded from kitchen duty. (=everyone did it) 

    relegate

    relegate
    formal

    to give someone or something a less important position than before
    relegate somebody/something to something
    Women tended to be relegated to typing and filing jobs.


    mascot

    mascot
    an animal or toy, or a person dressed as an animal, that represents a team or organization, and is thought to bring them good luck
    the official mascot of the 2002 World Cup Rocky the Raccoon, the team mascot

    sharecropper
    sharecropper

    (esp. formerly in the South) a farmer who farms someone else’s land (a TENANT farmer), and pays the land-owner usu. half of the crop. The farmer also owes the land-owner for a home, food, seeds, and tools, and so usu. receives very little of the crop and is very poor.

    excel

    excel
    to do something very well, or much better than most people
    excel at/in
    Rick has always excelled at foreign languages.


    solid

    British English informal
    good


    attendance

    attendance
    the number of people who attend a game, concert, meeting etc
    We have an average attendance of 4000 fans per game.
    Last year’s fair saw attendance figures of 32,000.


    rampant

    if something bad, such as crime or disease, is rampant, there is a lot of it and it is very difficult to control
    Pickpocketing is rampant in the downtown area.
    The country has high unemployment and rampant inflation.

    a rampant crime wave.

    transition

    transition
    the act of changing or passing from one form, state, subject, or place to another:
    a peaceful transition from colonial rule to self-government.
    a period of transition.
    transition from something to something
    the smooth transition from full-time work to full retirement Making
    the transition from youth to adulthood can be very painful.
    a society that is in transition (=changing)
    the period of transition to full democracy

    pitch

    taunt

    taunt
    to try to make someone angry or upset by saying unkind things to them
    taunt somebody about something
    The other children taunted him about his weight.
    other children taunted him about being fat  
    taunt somebody with something
    They taunted him with the nickname ‘Fatso’.
    ‘And he’ll believe you, will he?’ Maria taunted.
    They taunted her with her inability to swim.
    He was taunted by the other schoolchildren for being fat.


    Rookie of the Year

    Rookie_of_the_Year
    The Rookie of the Year award is given by a number of sports leagues, mainly in North America, to the top first-time professional athlete (rookie) of a season.


    headstone

    headstone
    a piece of stone on a grave, with the name of the dead person written on it
    ᅳsynonym gravestone, tombstone

    bear

    ▶SIGN/MARK◀
    formal to have or show a sign, mark, or particular appearance, especially when this shows that something has happened or is true
    ᅳsynonym have
    The letter bore no signature.
    a car bearing diplomatic license platesThe labels bear a yellow and black symbol.
    The town still bears the scars of the bombings during the war.
    The store bears the hallmarks (=it has the qualities) of a family-owned business.

    epitaph

    epitaph
    a short piece of writing on the stone over someone’s grave (=place in the ground where someone is buried)
    his epitaph begins thus: I am Iraj, Iraj the honey-tongued

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