Remembering Jackie Robinson On His 94th Birthday

6:46 PM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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  • Jackie Robinson signing contract- Getty Images

Greesnboro, NC -- Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson was born on January 31, 1919.

Robinson would have been 94-years-old Thursday. Robinson is famous for being the first African-American to play major league baseball.

Many know that he broke the 'color barrier' in Major League Baseball and did so playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. That's why Google's landing page features Robinson today. 

Throughout his decade-long career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he made advancements in the cause of civil rights for black athletes. In 1955, he helped the Dodgers win the World Series. He retired in 1957, with a career batting average of .311.

Robinson's number, 42, was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997. No one on any team can wear it anymore except on Jackie Robinson Day--April 15--when everyone in baseball dons his famous number.

Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, the story of Robinson's life will be told on the big screen this April 12, 2013 in the movie simply titled, "42."

Shot partially in Macon and around central Georgia, the film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, and stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the executive who signed Robinson to the team. Watch the movie trailer.

The movie also co-stars many faces audiences will recognize, like Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black, Alan Tudyk, Toby Huss and John C. McGinley.

Robinson Life History:

According to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Robinson was the youngest of five children. He was raised in relative poverty by a single mother and attended John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College. He was an excellent athlete and played four sports: football, basketball, track, and baseball.

Jackie continued his education at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he became the university's first student to win varsity letters in four sports. In 1941, despite his athletic success, Robinson was forced to leave UCLA just shy of graduation due to financial hardship. He moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears. His season with the Bears was cut short when the United States entered into World War II.

From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He never saw combat, however; Robinson was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp after he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus during training. He was later acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objection to segregation were precursors to the impact Robinson would have in major league baseball.

After his discharge from the Army in 1944, Robinson played baseball professionally. At the time, the sport was segregated, and African-Americans and whites played in separate leagues. Robinson began playing in the Negro Leagues, but he was soon chosen by Branch Rickey, a vice president with the Brooklyn Dodgers, to help integrate major league baseball. He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1945. He moved to Florida in 1946 to begin spring training with the Royals, and played his first game on March 17 of that same year.

Rickey knew there would be difficult times ahead for the young athlete, and made Robinson promise to not fight back when confronted with racism. From the beginning of his career with the Dodgers, Robinson's will was tested. Even some of his new teammates objected to having an African-American on their team. People in the crowds sometimes jeered at Robinson, and he and his family received threats.

Robinson was a Georgia native. In his later years, Robinson continued to lobby for greater integration in sports. He died from heart problems and diabetes complications October 24, 1972, in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation, WMAZ, The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum

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