The MLB Desegregates

Well since the new MLB season is just about to get under way, I feel it is only right to give you all a little history lesson about the stepping stones that has made the league what it is today. Before World War II, Major League Baseball only consisted of white players, owners and managers. No individuals of any sort of color were permitted to play in the MLB, although they were a number of various leagues that did allow other ethnicities to play in them, primarily African American. So on today, April 15th, 1947, the game of baseball in the United States would be changed forever.

At the age of 28, Jackie Robinson became the first African American baseball player to play in the MLB braking the color barrier in a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 years. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, and attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he was the first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. After having to drop out due to financial problems, he joined the army in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After protesting instances of racial discrimination during his military service, Robinson was court-martialed in 1944, later being honorably discharged.

Robinson began his baseball career by playing a season in the Negro American League. In 1945, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Robinson, based on his his integrity and intelligence as well as his talent, to join one of the club’s farm teams. After nearly two years, Robinson was called up to the Majors and soon became a star infielder and outfielder for the Dodgers, as well as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. In 1949, the right-hander was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player and league batting champ. Robinson played on the National League All-Star team from 1949 through 1954 and led the Dodgers to six National League pennants and one World Series, in 1955. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

Now I know what all you are saying to yourselves, it sounds like his career was a walk in the park. Not exactly, despite his talent and success as a player, Robinson faced tremendous racial discrimination throughout his career, from baseball fans to fellow players. Additionally, Jim Crow laws prevented Robinson from using the same hotels and restaurants as his teammates while playing in the South. But he continued to keep his head on straight and to keep his mind on the big picture. Too many, he was just as much of an activist as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, just in a different setting. He helped prove to the African American race that if you can be passive to the ignorance and the irrelevant things in life, anything is in fact possible.


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