Jackie Robinson

Major League Baseball (MLB) is an American professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball: 15 teams in the National League (NL) and 15 in the American League (AL). On February 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs more commonly known as the NL was formed. The American League (AL) was established in 1901 and in 1903, the first World Series was held. Beginning in 1903, the two leagues cooperated but remained legally separate entities. Both leagues operated as legally separate entities until they merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000.

Prior to 1947, the colour barrier or the colour line prevented the players of black African descent from playing in the Major League Baseball and its affiliated Minor Leagues. They were racially segregated to Negro leagues since the 1880s. This barrier was broken by Jack Roosevelt Robinson who was an American professional baseball player and the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. He broke the colour line when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. In 1962, he was admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier that not only affected baseball, but altered America’s own culture and community. Not only was he an excellent baseball player, he was also a great man of immense bravery and pride. Whenever he travelled with the Dodgers, he endured verbal abuse. The usual hotels in which dodgers used to stay did not allow them to stay since they did not allow black people to stay in them. His own teammates refused to play along with him but he still endured it all. He was able to grow the Dodgers fanbase as a majority of the blacks looked up to Robinson as an inspiration and thought of him as a hero. Some people think that he only affected baseball however, in my opinion, he changed a lot more. 

There was an important event that took place, and it can be said that this was an important reason, that the chain reaction was set off which led to the civil rights movement. It took place when the army was still segregated. As detailed in the masterful Jackie Robinson: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad, on July 6, 1944, Robinson “became entangled in a dispute that threatened to end his military service in disgrace.” While riding on a military bus returning to a hospital from “the colored officers club,” Robinson sat next to Virginia Jones, the wife of one of his fellow officers. Jones looked white — at least the white bus driver thought so. After a few blocks, the driver abruptly ordered Robinson “to move to the back of the bus.” Robinson, justifiably outraged, refused. Among other things, he had read that segregation was no longer allowed on military buses and proceeded to engage in a form of protest. This led to Robinson being arrested and tried in court. The case became a national political incident. However, he was found not guilty of all charges and was exonerated. It was after this that he decided to play baseball professionally.

 America was just coming out of World War II when Robinson came into baseball. Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany were defeated by the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States of America, and this was in part on the backs of African American soldiers who faced discrimination and were largely ignored for their contributions in the country that they risked their lives for. The Soviets were the rulers of the Communist world, and much of the world was colonised by Europeans. These nations could not regard America as the “leaders of the free world” as they oppressed their own people. Robinson came into baseball at the perfect time. He was able to unify the fans of the Dodgers, both the blacks and the whites through baseball. They together as one were celebrating the success of the Dodgers. He was a true pioneer of the civil rights movement. It might not be an exaggeration to say that Jackie Robinson was able to change the course of history and politics. Going back to my earlier point, the chain reaction which was set off from this was as follows. First on July 26, 1948, just over a year after Robinson had met his first pitcher at Ebbets Field, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9982, abolishing racial discrimination in the armed forces. It is definitely safe to say that Truman’s timing was influenced by the effective incorporation of professional baseball by Robinson. Truman’s disaggregation of the military no doubt influenced the Brown v. Board decision of the Supreme Court in 1954 to desegregate public schools, which in turn influenced Rosa Parks’ conduct on her bus (Rosa Park was an American activist in the civil rights movement), resulting in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott came the leadership of the young Martin Luther King Jr. and without him there would be no civil rights movement.

I can say without a doubt that he was truly an inspiration to many and gave hope to many blacks in that time period. He suffered and endured racism and other forms of abuse throughout the years but he took a stand against the system and was able to contribute towards a change. This was also possible only because he decided to play baseball and not other sports like football or basketball as baseball was considered as their national religion for much of the past. It was and still is considered the “national pastime”.

 ~Abhideep Sinha 

  S.Y.Bsc Economics

Leave a Reply

WordPress PopUp Plugin