70 years later, Jackie Robinson’s legacy still resonates.
(ThyBlackMan.com) One of the more important historical milestones in American history has reached his 70th anniversary as it has been 70 years since former Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line when he made his Major League Baseball debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Major League Baseball will prepare for its annual commemoration of the impact of Jackie Robinson with special tributes throughout April 15th on its Jackie Robinson Day. It has become a tradition for all Major League Baseball players to wear number 42 during Jackie Robinson Day as a reminder of the number 42 that was worn by Robinson that has been officially retired by every Major League Baseball team. The Los Angeles Dodgers plan to unveil a Jackie Robinson statue prior to their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 15th. Although it has been several decades since Robinson’s passing, the impact of his Major League journey resonates today.
When Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut in 1947, Jim Crow laws were in full effect in America and the treatment and discrimination faced by black people was much more outwardly pronounced than today. The most talented black baseball players had to play professionally in the Negro Leagues as the notion of black players in Major League Baseball was seen as unrealistic. Although Jackie Robinson was not the most talented black baseball player available when he entered Major League Baseball, but he was the most equipped from a personality and mental toughness standpoint to deal with the challenge of breaking baseball’s color line and help end racial segregation in professional baseball.
Jackie Robinson faced incredible hostility from baseball crowds and opposing baseball players during his career and handled situations with strength and determination. He also faced numerous death threats. Few people are aware that Jackie Robinson was arrested and court-martialed during training in the Army for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus but was eventually acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge.
Today, there are several ways that Jackie Robinson’s career has impacted athletes of today and the recent past. There have been some recent groundbreaking athletes during athletic competitions like the Olympics where athletes like Olympic American fencer Daryl Homer and Olympic American boxer Clarissa Shields made history of their own in winning Olympic medals. Daryl Homer won the USA’s first medal in men’s individual sabre since 1984 and did so is a black male in a sport that is not very diverse. Clarissa Shields became the first U.S. woman to win a boxing gold medal in 2012 and continues to make history. Numerous decades later, there are still athletes breaking barriers in sports who were able to use the journey of Jackie Robinson as a blueprint on how to handle an extremely challenging situation.
There has also been a social impact from Jackie Robinson in terms of his integration. The NBA and NFL both racially integrated their sports following Robinson’s arrival in baseball. Both the NBA and NFL have made progress in opportunities for people of color as athletes and in the front offices of both sports. Although there is less black player participation in Major League Baseball than the past, baseball is more global now as there are more foreign players. Also, the strength exhibited by individual athletes like Colin Kaepernick for their social stances are part of Jackie Robinson’s legacy. It is impossible to separate sports and society from Jackie Robinson’s social impact.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines