Apr 15, 2022 - Sports

Baseball celebrates 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking color barrier

Jackie Robinson

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier 75 years ago today when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Driving the news: MLB will celebrate the occasion across the country today, with players wearing his No. 42, as has been tradition since 2009.

  • In New York, part of 42nd Street will be temporarily renamed Jackie Robinson Way and the Empire State Building will glow blue and white with his No. 42.
  • In Los Angeles, his nearly 100-year-old widow, Rachel, will attend the Dodgers-Reds game, and the team will pay tribute at his statue.
  • In Cairo, Georgia, his birthplace, the Braves' World Series trophy will be on display at the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club.

What they're saying: "I marvel at how much this man did in such a short period of time," former MLB player and current ESPN analyst Doug Glanville told NYT. "He lived, like, five lifetimes."

Martin Luther King Jr. in conversation with Jackie Robinson  in 1962.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson, pictured in 1962. Photo: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images

The big picture: Here's just some of what those "five lifetimes" comprised during Robinson's 53 years on Earth:

  • The ballplayer: The 1947 Rookie of the Year and 1949 MVP was even better than most realize. His MLB ranks across his first seven seasons: stolen bases (1st), runs (2nd), hits (2nd), WAR (2nd), batting average (4th).
  • The athlete: Baseball was just one of seven sports Robinson excelled in at UCLA, joining football, basketball, track, golf, swimming and tennis.
  • The trailblazer: His courage paved the way for Black athletes across all sports. "What he faced was almost unreal," Oscar Robertson told ESPN. "He took the blow for everybody."
  • The activist: Robinson was friends with Martin Luther King Jr., and spent his post-playing career as a civil rights activist. "Jackie Robinson made my success possible," King said shortly before his death in 1968.

The last word: Robinson's legacy is summed up perfectly in his epitaph: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

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