Jackie Robinson is a household name today because he was the first player to break the color barrier of Major League Baseball. To honor his efforts, MLB has officially retired his number from play for every team. One day every year, every player also gets to wear the number 42 to honor Robinson. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947 and became an influential member of the Civil Rights movement. Born into a family of sharecroppers, his story is one of many amazing accomplishments.
Many people know the story of Jackie Robinson, but they don’t necessarily know all of these interesting facts.
1. How Many Sports Did Robinson Play?
While attending college at UCLA, Jackie Robinson became the first athlete to letter in 4 different sports over the course of a single year. He was a basketball forward and guard, played football, and was a long jumper on their track team. He won several amateur tennis titles during his summers off from school and after graduation, he actually played professional football. He was even playing professional basketball just a few months before breaking the MLB color barrier.
2. Robinson Abandoned Baseball for 5 Years
Many athletes didn’t play any sports because of World War II and Robinson was one of those men. After his last game for UCLA, he didn’t pick up baseball again until after return from the war. He played for the KC Monarchs in the Negro League in 1945, played minor league baseball in 1946, and then debuted for the Dodgers in 1947.
3. Many of the Dodgers Didn’t Want Robinson
As Robinson was set to join the the Dodgers, many of the players signed a petition that requested he not join the team. They’d seen or heard of the consistent abuse his minor league team endured the year before and didn’t want games canceled or items thrown at them. One pitcher was even traded because he refused to play with Robinson.
4. He Stole Home Plate 19 Times
It wasn’t flashy baseball that Robinson liked to play. He was skilled at the fundamentals of the game and let his speed do the talking. He was particularly good at bunting and could advance players or beat out an infield hit like few others. His first ever hit in the top flight was a bunt and he only had 4 non-productive outs from bunting his rookie season. It was his skill at reading pitchers and stealing home, however, that really got people talking.
5. He Played Himself In His Own Biography
Just three years after breaking into the majors, Robinson got to play himself on film in the low budget The Jackie Robinson Story. The film sold well at the box office and it made Robinson an even greater household name. It also made him a bigger target. In 1951, a death threat came in that a group of men were going to kill him using a scoped rifle at a game in Cincinnati. The FBI got called in, couldn’t find anything, and Robinson hit a home run.