In 1947, black baseball player Jackie Robinson became the first black man to integrate major league baseball in America. Robinson was recruited by Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers and the Montreal Royals (the international affiliate of the Dodgers). Robinson was already a star on the field of the Kansas City Monarchs. He was headed for more Negro League exhibition (barnstorm) games against the white major league players when Rickey was looking to integrate the team. But as the world of baseball began to change in the eyes of Branch Rickey, so did the life of a phenomenal baseball player from Cairo, Georgia. Robinson’s entire life was flipped upside-down and he was given a tremendous responsibility to make all people see the game of baseball in an entirely different way.
After high school, Robinson attended UCLA, and became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. He was named to the All-American football team in 1941. Lack of funds forced Robinson to leave college and join the military. He was on his way up the ranks until an incident involving racial discrimination resulted in a court marshal and honorable discharge from the Army.
Robinson joined the Monarchs in 1945. In only two years of the Negro Leagues, he was recruited by Rickey for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In his first year with the MLB team, Robinson earned the title of Rookie of the Year with 12 homers, a league-leading 29 steals, and a .297 average.
Personally, Jackie Robinson married college sweetheart Rachel Isum and the two had three children: Jackie Jr., Sharon and David Robinson.
In 1962, Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ten years later, Robinson died of heart problems and complications of diabetes. His Brooklyn Dodgers jersey number, number 42, is the only number retired in major league baseball history. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, Spingarn Medal and the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Jackie Robinson and his long road to victory is told in the upcoming film “42” by award-winning Director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential). This biopic tells the story of the courageous baseball player who accepted the challenge of integrating the all-white professional baseball league with the help of then Dodgers owner Branch Rickey in 1946; nearly twenty years before the civil rights movement.
The role of Jackie Robinson is portrayed by actor Chadwick Boseman, who embodies the character as if the current year is 1946, and he had never seen a bathroom door without a Jim Crow sign. Boseman is accompanied in the cast by Nicole Beharie who stars as Rachel, Robinson’s wife, and also his biggest fan and backbone. The story is brought together through the character portrayed by Academy-Award Nominee, Harrison Ford, who super-starred as Branch Rickey.
“42” starts in theaters April 12, 2013, three days before the actual annual “Jackie Robinson Day” is celebrated by all baseball teams. This year marks the 66th anniversary of Robinson’s break in history.