Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children, and his family moved to Pasadena, Calif. early in his life in 1920.
Robinson attended John Muir High School, where he lettered in four sports: football, basketball, track and baseball. He then moved on to Pasadena Junior College, before eventually winding up at UCLA in 1939.
He continued to play football, basketball, track and baseball in college and became the first UCLA athlete to letter in four different sports.
Robinson pursued a post-college career in football, but that ended in 1942 when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place and he was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Minor League career
Robinson began his professional career in baseball in 1945 when he signed a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues. Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey first expressed interest in signing him shortly after, and by 1946, he had reported to Dayton Beach, Fla. for Spring Training with the organization.
In Robinson’s first Minor League season with the Dodgers, he was named the MVP of the International League, hitting .349. He also made the change from shortstop to second base, and then eventually to first base that year.
Major League career
The Dodgers called Robinson up to the Major Leagues six days before the start of the 1947 season. He made his Major League debut at Ebbets Field on April 15 of that year at the age of 28, breaking baseball’s color barrier.
Being the first African-American Major League Baseball player obviously came with its challenges, but Robinson will forever be known as the person who forever changed sports.
He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1947, and went on to be named to six All-Star teams over a 10-year career with the Dodgers. Robinson was named MVP of the league in 1949, winning a batting title that season. He also won the World Series in 1955 and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
In December of 1956, the Dodgers traded Robinson to the New York Giants. However, instead of playing for the rival team, Robinson elected to retire from baseball at the age of 37.
After his retirement, Robinson devoted his time to a number of business opportunities. He was very active in politics in his post-career life, and also served as a sports analyst.
On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired his No. 42 uniform number, alongside those of Roy Campanella (39) and Sandy Koufax (32). MLB decided to retire his number throughout the entire sport in 1997.
Unfortunately, Robinson did not get to live out much of his post-career life as heart disease and diabetes weakened him and quickly made him blind. He died of a heart attack in his home in North Stamford, Conn. on Oct. 24, 1972, at the age of 53.
Robinson is survived by his wife Rachel, his daughter Sharon and his son David. He also had another son named Jackie Jr. who passed away in 1971. Rachel founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation after her husband’s death, and that continues to this day.
MLB celebrates “Jackie Robinson Day” on April 15 every year, and all players across the league wear his No. 42 jersey on that day only.