Today is Jackie Robinson Day. On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first black player in Major League Baseball. His team: the Dodgers. So, to honor him, every Dodger will be No. 42 – Robinson’s number, which has since been retired from the league.
Over the years, he’s been honored and memorialized across Los Angeles, as the photos above show. After all, Jackie Robinson was a hometown guy, raised in Pasadena. He went to John Muir High School and earned an athletic scholarship to UCLA.
Baseball wasn’t his only sport. Jackie Robinson excelled in football, basketball and track as well. He was the national long jump champ in 1940, a football All-America in 1941 and the basketball team’s highest scorer. He became the first student athlete in UCLA history to letter in four sports.
After serving three years in World War II as a cavalry lieutenant and returned to sign with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.
Back then, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, N.Y. Team president Branch Rickey chose Robinson off the roster of the Kansas City Monarchs, warning him that it wouldn’t be easy.
“I want a man with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey said.
“I’ve got two cheeks – is that what you want to hear?“ Robinson replied.
During his rookie season with the Dodgers, Robinson had plenty of opportunities to turn the other cheek. Over time, through his dignity and restraint, the taunts, the slurs, turned to praise.
And though he didn’t say much that first year, he was vocal during the rest of his career.
“I’m a human being,” he said. “I have a right to my opinions. I have a right to talk.”
He died in 1972. In his obit in the L.A. Times (which you can read here), he was described as “the grandson of a slave, a man who emerged from a small house on Pepper Street in Pasadena to become one of the nation’s greatest athletes and a symbol of hope for Black America.”
Just outside Pasadena’s city hall, you can visit a memorial to two great city sons – Olympian Mack Robinson and his younger brother, Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
At Ebbets Field, aging 18-year veteran outfielder Zack Wheat hits his last home run as a Dodger, but severely pulls a muscle nearing second. The future Hall of Famer needs to rest nearly five minutes before completing his trip to home plate, making it the longest home run trot in major league history