Commemorating Robinson Making History by Joining the MLB
By Pamela Rider
On last week’s balmy Spring Saturday, the staff at the Rufus King Manor recognized the late, great Jackie Robinson through educating attendees on his monumental impact for civil rights and the culture of Major League Baseball.
While it was not the turn out that was expected, the attendees were taught insightful information about Robinson, as King Manor assistant coordinator Sajade Banu spearheaded the decoration and preparation for the event.
On April 15, 1947, Robinson broke through a major barrier in American society when he became the first African American to play for a major league baseball team, The Brooklyn Dodgers.
Due to baseball being one of the most popular forms of entertainment in 1947, all of society watched as Robinson’s heroism paved the way for other people of color to achieve new heights.
Assistant director George Colon was very warm, inviting and informative as he led the people on a tour of the Mansion. He left no questions unanswered by all who asked. Colon was very in tune with the history not only about Jackie Robinson, but also the history of the Mansion and Rufus King.
Even before his baseball career, throughout his life, Jackie Robinson stood up for fair treatment, social justice and equality for all. In 1946 he married his wife Rachel, and Robinson had to endure racial injustice at every turn. His example and activism that they set led to a positive change that still has an impact and inspires many up to this day.
Robinson believed that “the right to every American to first class citizenship is the most important issue of our time,” as the leader once said.
Robinson attended John Muir Technical High School in California, where earned a place on the annual Pomona Tournament All-Star Baseball team and won the Southland class long jump title with a 23 foot 1 inch leap. He also captured the junior boy’s singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament. He then enrolled in Pasadena Junior College where he continued to be an athlete.
Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team signed Robinson to play with the Royals, the minor league team affiliated with the major league baseball club.
On Sept. 26, 1947 Robinson was nominated by The Sporting News Awards as Rookie of the year. In 1987, it was renamed “The Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.” By the end of his rookie year, Robinson had 12 home runs, a .297 batting average, and led the league in steals with 29. He distinguished himself throughout his decade-long career with an impressive .311 career batting average.
On Dec. 8, 1956 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), announced that Robinson will receive its highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, which was given annually to an African American whose achievements brought credit to the race.
In 1957, Robinson had made up his mind about changing his career. The Brooklyn Dodgers were trading him to the New York Giants, but to their amazement, Robison publicly announced his decision of becoming Vice President of Personal Relations for the Chock Full o’ Nuts corporation.
During his time Robinson chaired the NAACP”s Fight for Freedom Fund, which raised money to fight for equal rights for people of color, and convinced the company to support those efforts.
In addition to raising funds for the NAACP, Robinson traveled extensively in 1957 to raise funds for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organization, which defended equal rights for people of color. SCLC”s mission was to end all forms of segregation. Today the organization remains focused on economic justice and civil rights for people of color.
In 1966, Robinson was appointed by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to the position of Special Assistant for Community Affairs. Due to all of the outstanding accomplishments achieved by Robinson, The U.S. Postal Service first commemorated Robinson with a stamp in 1986. It then issued additional stamps honoring his life in 1999, 2000 and 2013.
Number 42 was retired throughout baseball in 1997. President Clinton and MLB Commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig made this decision which honored Robinson’s number as the only number in baseball history to have been retired across the league. The Number 42 is displayed on the stadium wall of every major league ballpark in the United States.