Every year on April 15th, Major League Baseball honors one of baseballs true American heroes. He wore #42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers and on that day in April of 1947 he became the first African-American to play professional baseball. That man is none other than Jackie Robinson. After just watching the movie “42: The True Story of an American Legend” it really made me realize and understand how difficult and challenging it must have been for someone to play in a league where almost everyone didn’t want him there. He was an outcast and a villain to many and he had to battle through extremely tough times, but in the end he succeeded.
The movie takes you through Jackie’s early baseball career when he was a member of the Kansas City Monarchs, part of the Negro Leagues. The club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, sought out and recruited Robinson to sign a minor league deal with the International League farm club affiliate of the Dodgers, the Montreal Royals. After a year in the minor leagues Robinson was brought up to the Dodgers and played on Opening Day in 1947. Robinson found himself as the “poster child” for race relations in baseball and because of his hard work and strong personality he was able to withstand the racism of that time and have a glorious 10 year baseball career. During his time in the major leagues he won the Rookie of the Year award, was MVP of the 1949 season, was a 6-time All-Star, helped lead the Dodgers to a World Series title in 1955 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Robinson helped pave the way for many African-American players like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, and thousands of others. There is one alarming trend in Major League Baseball though in the present day. The African-American percentage in baseball is at its lowest since 1959 when the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate its roster. The number of African-American baseball players on the 2013 opening day rosters was only at 7.7% which is down from the peak of 27% in 1975. Four teams this year opened the season without an African-American player on their roster – the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. The league is so concerned with this drop, that a task force was set up by MLB commissioner Bud Selig to try and reverse this decline. MLB does currently have some programs in place to help regain many African-American players that have chosen to pursue other sports or career paths but clearly not enough is being done.
Hopefully with this new movie it will shed a light on African-American players in baseball and what a true hero Jackie Robinson was. He was an inspiration and a great ambassador to the game of baseball. Major League Baseball pays tribute to Jackie Robinson every year on April 15th when all players and coaches don the #42 on their backs in memory of the great legend. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, or what ever nationality you are, baseball is America’s pastime and everyone is welcome to play!
- Jackie Robinson Day (reachwingspan.com)
- 42: The Legacy of Jackie Robinson (o.canada.com)
- ’42′: The Jackie Robinson Story Throws A Perfect Strike (947thewave.cbslocal.com)