Jackie Roosevelt Robinson is one of the most iconic figures in sports history. He was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919, and his family moved to Pasadena one year later. Seeing his brother Mack Robinson compete in track and field inspired him to pursue sports.
Robinson attended John Muir Technical High School where he sang in the glee club and participated in several different sports. He competed in the long jump and high jump, was a quarterback in football, took the school baseball team to the finals of the annual regional baseball tournament in Pomona and won the junior boys’ singles championship in the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament.
After high school, Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College where he was the short stop and the leadoff batter for their baseball team and was a forward for the basketball team. He also played football and was the second-best long jumper in the school.
In a span of 24 games, Robinson scored 43 runs and had a batting average of .417 in 1938. In football, he committed a 99-yard run that broke the school record for the longest run from scrimmage. In 1939, Robinson started taking classes at UCLA.
Robinson played four sports for the Bruins: football, track and field, basketball, and baseball. In football, he teamed up with Kenny Washington and Woody Strode to make the Bruins undefeated contenders in 1939. For two straight years, Robinson led the U.S. in punt return average.
Robinson was an elite player on offense, leading the Bruins in scoring, rushing, and passing. In 1940, he averaged 12.4 points per game in basketball and became the West Coast Conference MVP. His prowess in the long jump would earn him Pacific Coast Conference and NCAA titles.
Success did not come easy for Robinson in baseball as he averaged .097 in batting in 1940.
On April 3, 1942, Robinson was drafted into the military and served in World War II. Dealing with racial discrimination throughout his life, he fought against systemic racism in the military. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was appointed as an acting morale officer.
After he was honorably discharged from the military, Robinson played one season with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. With the Monarchs, Robinson had 163 at bats, 63 hits, five homeruns and a .387 batting average.
Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey offered Robinson an opportunity to play for their International League farm club, the Montreal Royals. On April 18, 1946, Robinson played his first game with the Royals, scoring a three-run homer, four runs batted in, and two stolen bases. He became the International League MVP that season.
On April 15, 1947, Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports in his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He then endured racial abuse; some teammates opposed having a Black player on the Dodgers. One team threatened to go on strike if Robinson played. He had to compete while being showered with racial slurs from fans, players, and coaches. Yet Robinson persevered, winning the MLB Rookie of the Year Award.
In 1949, Robinson won the batting title with a .342 batting average. He also became the National League MVP that year. Robinson helped the Dodgers reach six World Series. In 1955, the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in seven games to win the World Series. Robinson is a six-time All-Star who led the MLB twice in stolen bases. Every year on April 15, MLB honors his legacy by having Jackie Robinson Day where every player in the league wears the number 42 on their jersey.