Jackie Robinson: Breaking Barriers
The sound of a wood bat smashing a leather baseball, during a mid-day game, and attempting to break the color barrier, was what Jackie imagined. The “colored comet” or “the black destroyer,” also known as Jackie Robinson, endured heavy racism in his attempt to break the color barrier. Past practices didn’t allow blacks to play baseball in the Majors until 1946 (Griffin). He was a very talented person. His quest for breaking the barrier began when he was a child, and almost ended with a near escape at Pearl Harbor. He later faced staunch racism, but he endured. He had the guts to fight for what was right and break the nonexistent color barrier to play professional baseball.
After high school, Robinson attended UCLA. During college he also excelled in sports. In college he was a well-known figure by all. While attending UCLA he accomplished something pretty special. He was the first to letter in four sports. Also, while at college he met his future wife, Rachel (“Jackie”). The university asked Jackie to stay and even offered financial support to him, but he had used up his eligibility (“Jackie”). He didn’t have much money, but he turned down the offer respectively.
Once he graduated, he moved on with his life. He signed to play minor league baseball with the Honolulu Bears (“Jackie”). At the end of the season he returned to California to visit his mother and his to-be-wife, Rachel. He had missed the bombing of Pearl Harbor by just two days (“The Jackie”). Once he arrived in California, he heard that the Army was drafting, so he enlisted. Jackie was later sent to basic training in Kansas (“Jackie”). He was discharged from the Army in 1944. Jackie and the Army didn’t go well together, so he moved on with his life.
He signed with the Dodgers on August 28, 1945 (Griffin). “’Launching the experiment in Montreal was more then fortuitous. It was destiny in some ways. The security and respect shown towards us allowed Jack to perform at the peak of his ability,’” stated Mrs. Robinson (Griffin). Newspapers began calling him the “colored comet” and “the dark destroyer.” According to his contract he wasn’t to respond to racial slurs for three years when he signed (Griffin). He couldn’t attack his tormentors, or go after them. On March 17th, 1946 he played his first professional game in Daytona. “’He was impatient and a fighter for change,’” said Mrs. Robinson (Dodd). When he set his mind to it, he did it.
In today’s game there are surprisingly fewer and fewer African Americans playing baseball. There is a lot of pressure on African Americans today, with increasing numbers of them appearing in basketball and football. Blacks like physical sports and think baseball is a soft sport (Gage). The national past-time is becoming irrelevant to those whose race has produced some of the greatest heroes of this time. In 185 communities, in the United States, there is a program called RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Leagues. It enrolls about 120,000 and fifty five percent of them are black (Gage). The black players are there, there are just fewer and fewer. Now, many black people are the food and drink vendors that walk up and down stairs during games. They are also the persons that clean the stadiums after games. Another reason that the number of black players is decreasing is due to the coaching at younger ages. “’We’re not doing a good job of teaching at a young age, we’re losing the concept of teaching,’” stated Detroit Southwestern Coach Leon McKesson (Gage). The lack of teaching/coaching is the main reason why there isn’t many black players anymore in today’s game.
The Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, is concerned about Jackie’s legacy. “’The coming of Jackie Robinson was the most powerful event in baseballs’ history’” (Gage). Many of the blacks are disappearing, but the numbers of Asians and Latinos is on the rise. Asians and Latinos are becoming more and more popular in today’s game (Dodd). Blacks, on opening day rosters in ’74, were at a high of twenty seven percent; and in 2005, nine percent of the players on opening day rosters, were black (Dodd). Blacks are disappearing from the game today.
Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first to face racism, but was the most prominent figure that endured racism. Jackie had the most pull of any person in the black community. He was the most important figure in his time and of this century. According to the Dodgers’ manager that signed him to break the color barrier, he was the best choice. He had the utmost faith in him and he knew that Jackie would agree to the contract conditions and help set baseball right. By breaking the barrier, Jackie opened the door so that many more black players could enter the league in the coming years.