On This Day in History, January 27: Jackie Robinson’s Original Debut


Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on Jan. 31, 1919. He attended Pasadena Junior College in California and the University of California at Los Angeles.

As an undergraduate, Robinson excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was the first athlete in UCLA history to letter in four sports in one year. He left college in 1941 in his junior year joined the U.S. Army.

Discharged early in 1945 with a rank of first lieutenant, Robinson signed a contract to play professional baseball with the Monarchs, a Kansas City, Mo., team of the Negro American League.

Later in 1945, Robinson signed with Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to play with their Montreal-based minor-league team. After one season in Montreal, Robinson joined the Brooklyn team and became the first African-American to play major-league baseball. Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier was an accomplishment that spread hope and promise to African-Americans around the country.

From 1947 to 1956, mostly as a second baseman, Robinson batted .311 in 1,382 games. He was also a daring base runner. In the 10 seasons he played with the Dodgers, they won six penants.

After the 1956 season, Jackie, then 37, was traded to the Giants. Rather than report, however, he announced his retirement in a bylined article in Look magazine.

In 1962, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first African-American so honored.

From 1964 to 1968, he served as special assistant for civil rights to Governor Nelson  Rockefeller of New York.

Robinson starred in the motion picture The Jackie Robinson Story (1950). He was the author, with Alfred Duckett, of his autobiography I Never Had It Made (1972).

Less than two weeks after Jackie was honored at the 1972 World Series, he suffered his second heart attack at his Stamford, Conn. home and died at age 53 on Oct. 24, 1972.