Jackie Robinson Day!

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On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson emerged from the Brooklyn Dodgers dugout, to become the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. This one event would change the world forever. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Geogia in 1919, the youngest of five. Robinson graduated high school in 1935, and pursued his passion for sports at Pasadena Junior College. After a two year suspension, the cause of a verbal dispute with a police officer, and the death of his brother, Frank, Robinson decided to try out his athletic skills at UCLA, where he became the first athlete for UCLA to letter in four varsity sports. Once the attack of Pearl Harbor, Jackie was drafted into the U.S. Army, in which he would later become a 2nd Lieutenant, in 1943. In 1944, Robinson’s military career was derailed after boarding an Army bus. After being ordered to the back of the bus by the bus driver, Robinson refused, and at the end of the line, Jackie was arrested, and later received an honorable discharge, after being court-martialed and acquitted for insubordination. Shortly after, Robinson followed a friends advice to write for a tryout with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. While playing for the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson recieved Major League interest after batting .387, with five home runs, thirteen stolen bases, and an appearance in the All-Star game. Branch Rickey, general manager and club president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, offered Robinson an opportunity to play for their minor league affiliate, Montreal Royals. On October 23, 1945 Robinson signed a contract, and publicly announcing Robinson would be assigned to the Royals for the 1946 season. On April 18, 1946 Jackie Robinson made his professional debut with the Montreal Royals, breaking the color barrier in the minor leagues. He would end the season batting .349 and was named the leagues Most Valuable Player. Six days before the 1947 season, Jackie was called up to begin the season for the Brooklyn Dodgers. On a cold day at Ebberts Field, Robinson took the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey numbered 42, to break the major league color barrier. Though Jackie took extreme abuse from other teams, and fans, Jackie was persistent in his cause, and used the field to beat his opponents. At the end of his legendary career in 1956, Robinson batted .311 with 1,518 hits, 137 home runs, 734 runs batted in, and 197 stolen bases. Robinson also made the All-Star team six consecutive times from 1949-1954, a World Series champion in 1955, and the rookie of the year in 1947. After retirement, Jackie was diagnosed with diabetes after reporting numerous ailments to doctors. In 1962, in his first year of eligibility to be inducted in the hall of fame, Jackie was voted in as the first African-American baseball player, after pleading with voters to take only his on-field accomplishments into consideration. Jackie Robinson made his final public appearance when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 of the 1972 World Series on October 15, 1972. During a speech after throwing out the first pitch, Robinson stated that he hoped to one day look down the third base line and see a black coach. Shortly after, on October 24, 1972, Jackie Robinson was declared dead after suffering a heart attack. The funeral attracted over 2,500 people, including Rev. Jesse Jackson who delivered the eulogy, and many other black athletes and fellow teammates, some of which served as pallbearers, including baseball hall of famers Willie Mays, and Pee Wee Reese, heavyweight boxer Joe Louis and Bill Russell, the first black coach in NBA history. On April 15, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of the debut of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball retired Jackie’s number 42 across all of MLB. Ten years later, Ken Griffey, Jr. asked Jackie’s widowed wife Rachel permission to wear the number 42 to honor Jackie. After granting permission to Griffey, Jr., he then turned to Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, for permission. Not only did commissioner Selig grant permission to Griffey to wear the number but to all uniformed personnel, including players, managers, umpires, and coaches on Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th of each year. Today, aside from on Jackie Robinson Day when all players wear the number, only one player still wears the number 42, Mariano Rivera, who plans to retire at seasons end, and when he does the number will never be worn again. So as I close out today, I would like to welcome all to celebrate Jackie Robinson, and as for myself I would like to thank Jackie for his courageous determination, who without, none of us would be where we are today.

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