Jackie Robinson Los Angeles Dodgers:
NEW YORK -- As the Jackie Robinson Foundation's celebration of its inspiration's birthday progressed Monday evening, archival action footage of No. 42 in his old Brooklyn Dodgers uniform flickered on LCD screens ringing the ESPN Zone's reception room.
The baseball footage was almost an incongruity for the occasion.
Jackie Robinson played Major League Baseball for 10 years. His foundation, committed to educating young people both in the classroom and in real life, has been around for 33 years. His legacy would appear to have moved light years beyond anything bordered by foul lines.
Almost an incongruity, but not quite.
After all, MLB's Rookie of the Year Award still bears the name of the man who, when he took the field in 1947, crossed the gravest line of them all. Ten years later, he took a .311 lifetime average into retirement. Such societal and baseball feats will never fade.
"He will always have his baseball legacy, but he was also an amazing husband and loving father who worked for social change," said Sharon Robinson, his daughter. "So we know he is so proud of our scholars, and our growing list of alumni."
Jackie Robinson died more than 33 years ago. He would have been 87 on Jan. 31 -- a mention which brought gasps of realization from the foundation sponsors and benefactors invited to the fourth annual formal observance of his birthday.
This celebration, hosted by ESPN Zone for the third straight January, is one of the rare public bows by an organization that has championed African-American students for a third of a century.
"This is one of our few events where we don't have a fundraising agenda, but stop and think about the man," said Della Britton Baeza, president and CEO of the foundation. "It's an event that inspires us, kind of gives us the go-ahead for another year of perpetuating his legacy."
Founded by Rachel Robinson mere months after her husband's death, the national public non-profit foundation has funded more than 1,100 scholarships. For the current academic year, it is providing $1.8 million of support to 266 students in 33 states.
One of them, Chanel Cathey, underscored how Jackie Robinson's impact has come to extend far beyond a field. When she became involved in the foundation, she did some obligatory Robinson research -- but not into batting averages or stolen bases or such, but into his business savvy and entrepreneurship.
"Learning more about his various involvements was very inspiring," said Cathey, a Fordham sophomore majoring in communications. "It's something I'd like to mold my life after."
If there is a seismic shift in Robinson's legacy, it is very appropriate, nodded Ernie Banks. The Hall of Famer, now active in the foundation as a member of its Los Angeles Advisory Committee, remembers his contemporary and friend not for his baseball skills but for his dimensions.
"Baseball was just a pastime for him. He had greater things to do in life," Banks said. "He was a special person not controlled by people or things he saw. ... He had his own mission in life.
"Jackie Robinson started housing projects in Manhattan, he was on the board of a bank, he was an executive with Chock Full O' Nuts Coffee, he worked with Nelson Rockefeller. And he inspired people to move on and contribute the same way. All he thought about was making this a better world. Not playing ball ... although he did that great."
In his memory, his foundation still does great.
"He lives in those of us who work hard to fulfill his mission of equality and opportunity," said Allison Davis, vice president of the foundation. "For all of us, he is very much alive."
The first man whose uniform number was universally retired by MLB, whose clubs commemorate his historic debut every April 15, Robinson was keenly aware of the complex requisites of a successful life. For him, that meant options far removed from a base path. For today's JRF scholars, that means education not confined between the covers of a textbook.
"Our comprehensive mentoring programs is what distinguishes us from other scholarship programs in the country," Baeza said. "We offer career development and internship placement."
Corporations and individuals support the foundation by responding to its mission. Major League ballplayers and teams who have funded full scholarships include Derek Jeter, Mo Vaughn, Royce Clayton and both New York clubs.
While there is no offseason for fundraising, the JRF's keynote affair will be its annual awards banquet, March 6 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, once again hosted by Bill Cosby.
"Jackie Robinson's whole life was making this a better world," Banks said, "and to help people do just that. A philanthropist creates and gives. That's what Jackie did. That's what he really was."
Jackie Robinson Bio:(1919-1972)
Baseball player, activist
Honored internationally as the central figure in baseball's
"Noble Experiment," Jack Roosevelt Robinson, known in the
world of baseball as Jackie Robinson, took the first steps
toward integrating the sport's major league teams when he
signed a contract to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
This gigantic stride, which prepared the way for the legendary
feats of Willie Mays and Henry Aaron, was an early harbinger
of the significant changes in contract negotiations,
compensation, and general status of professional athletes
addressed half a century later in the 1994-95 baseball
strike. His individual challenge to the accepted policies of
organized sports demonstrated that change was possible
through the concentrated effort of a player's union.
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. His
parents were Jerry Robinson, a plantation farm worker, and Mallie, a
domestic worker. There were five children in the Robinson family: Edgar,
Frank, Mack, Willa Mae, and Jackie. Frankhis youngest brother's
greatest fanand Edgar are no longer alive, but Mack and Willa Mae still
live in Pasadena, California. Mack, Robinson's early role model, a
worldclass sprinter, came in second to Jesse Owens in the 200yard dash
in the 1936 Olympics. Jerry Robinson left his wife and children, never to
return, when Jackie was six months old. When she was 30 and Jackie 13
months old, Mallie, a deeply religious woman who believed in the possibility
of advancement for herself and her children, set out by railroad to start a
new life in Pasadena. Mallie Robinson washed and ironed clothes for
welltodo people and had to augment her meager earnings with welfare
relief. Money was limited, but Jackie never felt deprived of her love and
Despite the absence of some of the more arduous racial conditions of
Georgia, Pasadena had similar restrictionsthe movies were segregated,
African Americans could swim in the municipal pool and attend the YMCA
only on designated days, and some eating places were closed to black
people. From the teachings of his mother, however, Robinson learned
important lessons of selfrespect and selfconfidence.
Carl Anderson, a neighborhood automobile mechanic, pointed Robinson in
the right direction when the young boy engaged in petty misbehavior with
his friends. Karl Downs, youthful minister of Robinson's Methodist church,
paced the sidelines whenever his protégé was on the playing field and
counseled him when his athletic, social, or academic life became
burdensome. Encouraged by his mother and his mentors and by the
exhilaration of successes in sports, Robinson turned more and more of his
energies to the playing fields.
Introduction to Sports
Robinson's first competitive game took place when his fourthgrade soccer
team played the sixth graders. Then came football, tennis, basketball, the
track team, and table tennis. In athletics he had more freedom to relate to
people on equal terms, with less emphasis on race and more on body
development, coordination, and performance level. Because of his skill as a
football quarterback, .400 baseball player, and exceptional broadjumper,
Robinson was accepted as a friend by white team mates, attended the
same schools, and visited back and forth in each other's homes. Still, with
added age and broadened experience, Robinson saw that athletic success
did not guarantee full freedom in the racially and economically unequal
American society. Opposing players often reminded him of his race by
rougherthannecessary hits, arguments, and racial slurs.
Robinson won letters in football, baseball, basketball and track at Muir
Technical High School and Pasadena Junior College. When he left the latter
in 1939, he declined attractive offers from universities nationwide and
chose the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), just an hour's
drive from his mother's home in Pasadena. Robinson's honors at UCLA were
impressive: for two years highest scorer in basketball competition in the
Pacific Coast Conference, national champion long jumper, the school's first
athlete to letter in four sports, AllAmerican football halfback, and varsity
baseball shortstop. He left college in 1941 because of financial pressures,
not many units from a bachelor's degree.
Directly after UCLA, Robinson worked for a few months as an athletic
director in the National Youth Administration, in Atascadero, California.
Driven by a growing, overwhelming desire to play professional sports,
Robinson went to Hawaii in the fall of 1941 to join a semiprofessional,
racially integrated football team, the Honolulu Bears. On weekends he was
a member of the team, and during the week a construction worker. At the
end of the short season, he returned to the United States in December
1941, right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that took the nation
In 1942, Robinson was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to a
segregated unit in Fort Riley, Kansas, where under existing policy he could
not enter Officer's Candidate School. After protests by heavyweight
boxing champion Joe Louis, then stationed at Fort Riley, and other
influential personsincluding Truman Gibson, an AfricanAmerican advisor
to the secretary of warblack men were accepted for officer training.
Upon completion of the course of study, Robinson was commissioned as a
lieutenant in 1943.
A racially charged incident at Fort Hood, Texas, threatened to discredit
Robinson's service record, when in defiance of a bus driver's command to
go to the rear of the bus, he refused to leave his seat. Robinson, a lifelong
teetotaler and nonsmoker, was charged, originally, with public
drunkenness, conduct unbecoming an officer, and willful disobedience.
With a public outcry by fellow service men, the NAACP, and the black
press, led by the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender, the court
martial ended in exoneration. However, instead of going to meet with black
soldiers in the European Theater of Operations as he desired, Robinson's
next assignment was athletic director to new recruits at various camps in
this country. He left the service in November 1944 with an honorable
For a while Robinson coached a basketball team at what is now
HoustonTillotson College, in Austin, Texas, but the genesis of his
professional baseball career came in 1945, when he signed with the Kansas
City Monarchs of the Negro American League for $400 a month. In this
league, which included such luminaries as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and
"Piper" Davis, Robinson was treated with reverence because of his overall
playing skills, speed, and batting average that approached .400.
Major League Contract
Even though playing with the Monarchs had the hardships of long,
uncomfortable bus rides from town to town, uncertain awayfromhome
accommodations, low pay, poor playing fields, and the humiliation of the
prevailing discrimination and segregation, this was the perfect springboard
for Robinson's debut into the major leagues of baseball. It was the arena
where he attracted the attention of Branch Rickey, who opened the door
Before he decided on Robinson, Rickey, a devout Christian, and president
of the Brooklyn Los Angeles Dodgers, had searched nationwide for the ideal African
American man, one talented enough to play on major league teams and
wellenough adjusted within himself to withstand the attacks sure to come
in the racially prejudiced setting. Rickey had scouted Robinson with the
Monarchs and was impressed enough to meet with him for a personal
Rickey interrogated Robinson extensively for three hours on August 28,
1945. In a dramatization of hotel, restaurant, and game situations, he
glared at Robinson, shouting demeaning words and phrases while observing
his reactions. At the end he quoted the Biblical passage that advises
turning the other cheek. Satisfied that Robinson met the tests of ability,
stamina, and tolerance, Rickey exacted a promise of extreme patience and
forbearance for three years, then offered him a contract. On October 23,
1945, Rickey made the historic announcement that Jackie Robinson, a
black man, would play for the Montreal Royals, the minor league affiliate of
the Brooklyn Dodgers. Satchel Paige gave a ringing endorsement of
Robinson as the best possible selection for "The Noble Experiment."
In the midst of the 50th celebration of Robinson's debut as a Dodger,
former players spoke publicly of votes by most National League teams
whether to go on strike when the black man took the field. Had it not been
for the leadership of Rickey, National League President Ford Frick, Baseball
Commissioner Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, and players like Stan Musial, the
course of professional baseball might have taken a different turn.
In the winter of 1946, while Robinson was playing with Montreal, he
married Rachel Isum. They met as students at UCLA. Her greatest interest
was her future as a registered nurse, his a career in professional sports.
Because Rachel was not an avid sports fan, nor initially overwhelmed by
the attention of a college super star, it took some time for the relationship
to develop. They were married six years after the initial introduction. A
year after his death, Rachel Robinson founded the Jackie Robinson
Foundation to provide motivational and financial support to minority
students and maintain an archive of material relating to his career. She
lives in Connecticut, still a major force in the foundation's success.
Robinson Jr., the oldest of their children, born in 1946, was killed in an
automobile accident in 1971. Sharon, born in 1950, is a midwife, living in
Stamford. Her brother, David, two years younger, operates a coffee farm
in Tanzania, East Africa.
At the end of one year with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers
brought Robinson up from the minors to open the 1947 season. The team
won the league title and Robinson finished with a .297 batting average, a
leagueleading 29 stolen bases, and the title of Major League Rookie of
After Robinson had kept silent for the agreed time, he began to speak up
when pitchers narrowly missed his head, fans shouted epitaphs, or
obscene mail came to his home. He fought the denial of equal service in
eating and sleeping quarters, or wherever he faced discrimination. Finally,
the curative effects of time and recognition of Robinson's value to the
team caused the majority of players to settle into the spirit of
cooperation. With Robinson on the roster, the Los Angeles Dodgers won National
League pennants in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956. In 1955 they
defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series.
When the Dodgers decided to trade Robinson to the Brooklyn Giants after
the 1956 World Series, he retired from the game, declining to join his
team's archrivals from the same city. It was a fitting time for the star to
leavewith a .311 lifetime batting average, and 197 stolen bases over his
Robinson's induction into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1962 was a cause of
celebration for black people around the world. He chose his wife, Rachel,
his mother, Mallie, and his friend, Branch Rickey, to flank him in the
Cooperstown award ceremony. This highest possible recognition of
Robinson's skill and service was a symbol of victory to African Americans in
the continuing struggle against injustice, proof that black Americans are as
capable as any others.
Robinson's Hall of Fame plaque records the highlights of his brilliant career.
With the Brooklyn National League 1947 to 1956, he was the leading
National League batter in 1949 and holds the fielding mark for second
baseman, playing 150 or more games with .992. He led the National League
in stolen bases in 1947 and 1949 and was named Most Valuable Player in
1949. He is joint record holder for most double plays by second basemen,
137 in 1951. He led second basemen in double plays from 1949 through
After Professional Baseball
After baseball, Robinson headed the personnel office of the New
Yorkbased restaurant chain, Chock Full O'Nuts. He took an active role in
the Harlem YMCA and other social and community organizations, and was a
key figure in establishing and nurturing Harlem's African Americanowned
and controlled Freedom Banknow defunctthrough its initial period in
the mid 1960s. Despite black America's pride in Jackie Robinson's strength
as a trail blazer, his exceptional performance on the baseball diamond, and
his high visibility in community efforts, he was not free from controversy or
from disagreement with other popular African American figures. While
Robinson had deep affection for rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and felt
the pain of his suffering, he knew that his own temperament was not
suited for King's nonviolent demonstrations. He preferred to volunteer time
as head of fund raising drives for churches in Georgia destroyed by
Robinson embraced King's dream of equality but used an issue of his
syndicated newspaper column that appeared in the 1950s and 1960s,
mostly in the New York Post and the New York Amsterdam News, to air
his disagreement with his stand against the war in Vietnam. King
telephoned Robinson and explained his motivation for the opposition. After
their long talk, Robinson had not been persuaded to accept King's stance
but understood why King, a champion of nonviolence in our South, could
not condone armed conflict in Asia.
To Robinson, civil rights advocate Malcolm X was a talented man with a
message of promise for African American youth but hampered by a
philosophy based on hatred. In a much publicized war of words the two
men feuded over Malcolm's characterization of Ralph Bunche, former
undersecretary to the United Nations, as a man muzzled by white people
who had put him in that position. Robinson defended Bunche's integrity,
and Malcolm X criticized successful African Americans who distanced
themselves from the struggle for equal rights. Malcolm X's and Robinson's
goals were identical, but their approaches took divergent routes.
At one time Robinson resigned from the NAACP, citing its failure to listen to
younger, more progressive black people. Nevertheless, he was labelled an
"Uncle Tom" by black militants who resented what they interpreted as
Robinson's identification with a conservative, affluent white society.
In 1949 the House UnAmerican Activities Committee subpoenaed Robinson
to rebut singer, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson's declaration that
African Americans would not support this country in a war with the Soviet
Union. In his autobiography, I Never Had It Made, published shortly before
he died, Robinson defended his 1949 testimony that he would not desert
his country based on "a siren song sung in bass." He disavowed the
phrasing, which he then saw as an insult to the older, wiser Robeson, a
hero to the people for whose causes he had made meaningful sacrifices.
Robinson's political alliances were unlike those of most African Americans
who shied away from the Republican Party. He campaigned for Democrat
Hubert Humphrey in the presidential primary, yet he chose Republican
Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy in the 1960 general election. When
Robinson compared his observations of the two candidates for president
long after the election, he regretted he had not chosen Kennedy. During
the campaign, Nixon was friendly and charming in private meetings, and
seemed interested in the civil rights of African Americans. Robinson saw no
tangible evidence of Nixon's sympathy for the struggle in the South. On
the other hand, when Robinson met Kennedy, he wondered whether the
Democrat's failure to make eye contact as they talked was due to an
unspoken prejudice. Robinson's fears disappeared with the news of
Kennedy's public objections to the persecution of Martin Luther King.
Robinson came to the belated conclusion that Kennedy was the better
New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, named Robinson
Special Assistant for Community Affairs in 1966, with the responsibility of
improving the governor's popularity among residents of Harlem. In response
to criticism, Robinson defended his membership in the Republican Party as
a way to make heard the otherwise ignored voice of black opinion.
In protest against baseball's failure to add African American managers and
front office personnel, Robinson declined to participate in the 1969 old
timers game. Three years later, he came to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
for ceremonies to mark the 25th anniversary of his first major league
contract. By that time the effects of heart disease, diabetes, and failing
eyesight were apparent. Still a handsome, proud man, nattily dressed in a
business suit, his hair was totally white, and his gait was noticeably
Jackie Robinson's last public appearance was on October 15, 1972, at
Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, when he threw out the first ball in the
1972 World Series. Nine days later, rescuers were unable to revive him
from what would be the fatal heart attack that struck when he was
53-years old in his Stamford home on October 24, 1972. His funeral was
held on October 27, 1972, at Riverside Church in New York. The
pallbearers were all sports figures: Ralph Branca, Larry Doby, Junior Gilliam,
Don Newcombe, Pee Wee Reese, and Bill Russell. On its way to Cypress
Hills Cemetery, the procession passed through Harlem and Bedford
Stuyvesant where thousands lined the route. They were paying tribute not
only to Robinson's athletic abilities, but to him as the symbol of
opportunities for African Americans in professional sports without
limitations of race. He had withstood the pains and frustrations of the
trailblazer while giving recordbreaking performances on the field of play,
leaving lasting encouragement to players who followed long after he
Frommer, Harvey. Jackie Robinson. New York: Franklin Watts, 1984.
Harris, Mark. "Where've You Gone, Jackie Robinson?" Nation 260 (15
May 1995): 674.
Rampersad, Arnold. Jackie Robinson: A Biography. New York: Knopf,
Robinson, Jackie. Baseball Has Done It. Philadelphia: Lippincott,
. I Never Had it Made. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.
Jackie Robinson Quotes:
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
Above anything else, I hate to lose.
Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead.
How you played in yesterday's game is all that counts.
I guess you'd call me an independent, since I've never identified myself with one party or another in politics. I always decide my vote by taking as careful a look as I can at the actual candidates and issues themselves, no matter what the party label.
I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
It kills me to lose. If I'm a troublemaker, and I don't think that my temper makes me one, then it's because I can't stand losing. That's the way I am about winning, all I ever wanted to do was finish first.
Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life.
Pop flies, in a sense, are just a diversion for a second baseman. Grounders are his stock trade.
The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.
The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it.
There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.
For Great Los Angeles Dodgers check out:Davey Lopes
Tommy Lasorda Los Angeles Dodgers
Former Dodgers Players :
A Dodger Dog a day keeps the Doctor away.