Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thank you Jackie

Those of us born pre 1990 are well aware of Jackie Robinson and his many contributions to society & baseball.  Most people are unaware of his military and educational background.  Robinson graduated from UCLA where he was the first in school history to letter in baseball, basketball, football and track.  After college, Jackie was drafted into a segregated Army unit in Fort Riley, Kansas where he enrolled in an Officer's Academy.  Robinson achieved second lieutenant status and was reassigned to a non-segregated unit at Fort Hood, Texas.  After a bus incident similar to that of Rosa Parks, Jackie was transferred to another unit where he endured more poor treatment and eventually had to legally fight for an honorable discharge, which he rightly got, after false accusations of misconduct.
In 1944-45, before being offered a contract to play baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, Robinson was Athletic Director for Sam Huston College in Austin, Texas.  He also served as coach of the basketball team.  But when professional baseball came calling for Jackie, he couldn't pass on the opportunity.  Robinson played 1 season in the Negro Leagues where he batted .387 in 47 games, the year 1945.  1946 Jackie was recruited by Branch Rickey to play for the Montreal Royals of the International League to prepare him for a potential call-up to the Brooklyn Dodgers, whom Rickey was club president and general manager.  Rickey chose Jackie from a number of black players because of his sheer character.  Rickey told Robinson what he would have to endure in order to reach the Bigs.  Jackie was well aware and agreed to stay his temper.

The Rest as they say is History.  In 1947, Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut breaking the color barrier in baseball and began a Hall of Fame career with The Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie kept his word and restrained himself from retaliating to the vicious abuse thrown his way, despite having the kind of disposition anyone close to him would tell you, was not reserved or non-confrontational.  Robinson chose to keep a cool head for the betterment of the game and more importantly for the advancement of Black People.  He may not have been the greatest ball player, but Jackie's temperament and grace made him the kind of man Legends bow down to.

This card is special beyond aesthetics, dollar value and rarity.  The Story and His-tory is measurable in looking at where we've come from and where we're going as people.  I try to tell Jackie's story to every young person I meet interested in baseball.  I always ask them, "Do you know about Jackie Robinson?"  His story and his life are inspiring.

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