Today, all Major League Baseball clubs are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson day.
Detroit Tigers pitcher David Price spoke on Robinson, saying, “Hard as times were, whenever he was playing, he always had a smile on his face. That's what makes him special to me, always. [He was a] beautiful man with a beautiful smile. He probably didn't have too much to smile about.”
Robinson is known for breaking the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947, when he made his April 15 debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. By doing so, he courageously challenged racial segregation in both the North and South.
“I felt that if the right man, not to exploit a sociological problem, but if the right man and ability on the field and with control of himself off the field, if I can find that kind of a man, the American public would accept him,” former Dodgers president Branch Rickey (1942-1950) once stated. Well, Robinson was just that man.
In 1947, Rickey approached Robinson about joining the Dodgers. At the time, the Major Leagues had not had an African American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated.
When Robinson first wore the Brooklyn uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in the U.S.
Robinson was named National League (present day MLB) Rookie of the Year by the end of his first season, tallying 12 home runs and a league-leading 29 steals.
Later, in 1949, he was named National League Most Valuable Player and was also awarded a batting title.
Within his career, Robinson stood strong against those who worked against racial equality and acknowledged how one man can influence American culture. “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” he once said.
Robinson paved a way for other great players of color, and led the way to a fully integrated sport over a 12 year period.
Below is a list of the other players it took to fully integrate all 16 professional baseball teams of the time:
Larry Doby (7/5/1947- Indians)
Henry Thompson (7/17/1947- Browns and 7/8/1949- Giants)
Sam Jethroe (4/15/1950- Braves)
Minnie Minoso (5/1/1951- White Sox)
Bob Trice (9/13/1953- Athletics)
Ernie Banks (9/17/1953- Cubs)
Tom Alston (4/13/1954- Cardinals)
Curt Roberts (4/13/1954- Pirates)
Nino Escalera (4/17/1954- Reds)
Carlos Paula (9/6/1954- Senators)
Elston Howard (4/14/1955- Yankees)
John I. Kennedy (4/22/1957- Phillies)
Ozzie Virgil (6/6/1958- Tigers)
Pumpsie Green (7/21/1959- Red Sox)
From now and forever, number 42 lives on.