Jackie Robinson is a household name, a book report staple, an American hero. News of his 1947 debut in the major leagues appeared on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold. Fifty years after he first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, teams across the MLB held moments of silence on the field, and the league’s commissioner retired Robinson’s number across baseball.
“For sociological impact, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was perhaps America’s most significant athlete,” read his obituary in the Times.
When Earl “Big Cat” Lloyd, the NBA’s first-ever black player, died last month at the age of 86, there was decidedly less hoopla. The league honored him on its broadcasts, and national newspapers ran obits, but for many people, news of his death was the first time they heard his name.
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