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Jackie Robinson

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Baseball has always been America's national pastime. In the early and all the way into the mid 50's, baseball was America and America was baseball. The only thing lacking in the great game was the absence of African American players and the presence of an all white sport. America still wasn't friendly or accepted the African American race and many still held great prejudice towards them. All this would change when the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey decided he was going to sign a Negro player. Jackie Robinson was that player and Jackie Robinson changed the game, America, and history. By looking specifically at his childhood adversity, college life and the hardships he encountered by becoming the first black player in the game, it will be shown why Jackie Robinson is a great American story and hero.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia to a family of sharecroppers and then moved to Pasadena, California. His mother Millie raised Jackie and four others single-handedly in a neighborhood where they were the only blacks on the block (Duckett 19). In Pasadena is where Jackie would first realize his color would bring him much grief and heartache in the many coming years. Here, Jackie grew up poor, on a good day he would get two meals a day, but usually depended on the leftovers his mother could bring home from work. Many of the whites in the neighborhood and surrounding areas would try to buy them out, beg them to move, and threaten them if they didn't. The Robinson's stayed strong and never budged as they were determined to stay (Duckett 21).

Jackie would move on to bigger and better things as Jackie stared in high school athletics and moved onto college. Pasadena Junior College was Jackie's first stop as he enrolled into a very liberal school which did deal with blacks better than most. This was overshadowed by his brother being there and being known as the country's premier amateur sprinter (Daniels 68). Here Jackie quickly developed into a star baseball player and athlete and quickly became known as a great athlete, but most importantly his baseball game was taking off. Jackie also developed a great love for football here and could have been just as good, if not his first love of baseball. Jackie spent 1937 to 1939 at PJC and then moved on to his next greatest achievement, UCLA.

Jackie ended many months of rumors, anticipation, and the hopes of many by enrolling at UCLA where he received a lot of positive and negative attention. Here Jackie would begin making history and rewriting record books. UCLA still was hard for Jackie as they didn't allow blacks to live in Westwood, attend socials, work on campus, and they had no black professors (Daniels 97). Jackie slowly made his way into the hearts of UCLA by becoming the first athlete to letter in four sports: baseball, football, track, and basketball (Tygiel 55). Jackie graduated from UCLA after becoming one of the greatest athletes to ever step foot on their campus.

After college, Jackie experimented with different jobs but he just didn't like anyone. He had offers to play football and Negro league baseball but felt like he had no future in professional sports. After one the darkest days in American history, Pearl Harbor, Jackie was drafted into the war. Jackie had mixed emotions with the war because he was willing to do his part but didn't like how blacks were being treated in the military. Jackie left for the military and from day one was called a n***** and other racial terms which left Jackie feeling down and out. "I never understood why they wouldn't accept me, there was a good chance that we were going to die together, so we might as well be friends" (Chadwick 367). Jackie quickly began to gain a little respect when he was named an expert marksman, but not enough for them to let him play baseball with the whites. Jackie would spend three years in the military, which to this day, hasn't talked a lot about and held anger and hostility towards (Chadwick 380).

After the war, Jackie stilled had no profession, but felt like God had something special in store for him. In November 1944, he was passing by a field in Kansas City where the Negro league team, the Kansas City Monarchs was playing and he thought, why not? The Negro Leagues were depleted of talent because of the war so they accepted Jackie with open arms. This is where Jackie would build his legend as he blossomed into a star. In 1946, Branch Dickey decided he was going to break the barrier and sign a Negro league player, the only question was who? Josh Gibson was the best talent but had a history of tempers, anger, and abuse. Satchel Paige was the best pitcher but they felt he was too old. When Rickey began to watch Jackie, he noticed his speed and ability to take over a game. Rickey also knew Robinson was an educated man and grew up with lots of racism, so he felt like Robinson could handle the absolute hell he would have to take by breaking the barrier (Daniels 167).

Robinson didn't really understand why Rickey wanted to sign him and not Gibson, who is considered by many as the greatest power hitter of all time. Rickey managed to sell Robinson on the idea, after Jackie didn't act to interested. Robinson finally signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then all hell broke lose. The instant it hit the paper, mail poured into Robinson, most of it death threats. "You gonna die n*****, you step foot on that field", "we can hang you to", and "you won't make it off the bus you sorry n*****." (Tygiel 212). Robinson's main concern was his teammates and how they would accept him.

When Jackie first walked into the locker room, a sudden silence fell over and "I have never felt so scared and alone in my life" (Daniels 191).



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