By: M. Swift
One of the finest baseball players, Jackie Robinson had a big impact on Black players entering the League. To celebrate Robinson’s move to major league circles, let’s look at four things about the baseball great.
While baseball was the one that he’d pursue professionally, he also played basketball, football, and ran track. While enrolled at Pasadena Junior College, he broke his brother and Olympic silver medalist, Mack Robinson’s records in baseball.
At UCLA, he lettered in four sports and was the 1940 NCAA broad jump champion. Of the four sports, baseball was the one he had the least amount of success.
He was a member of the first Black tank battalion: the 761st Black Panthers. While training in Texas, Robinson was court-martialed in 1944 for not moving to the back of a military bus. The 761st’s commander refused to court martial him, as a result he was moved to another battalion. The charges brought against him were numerous and major.
Eventually, he was acquitted of the reduced “insubordination during questioning” charges. While serving as a coach for a military athletics Jackie Robinson would get an opportunity to play in the Negro Leagues.
Robinson’s stay in the professional the Negro Leagues was particularly short. He hated the disorganized nature of the Leagues and accepted several chances to try out for MLB. In under a year he would sign with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team.
Robinson’s meeting with scout Branch Rickey saw the two go back and forth over scouting a specific “kind” of Black player. Rickey wanted a player who wouldn’t react violently to racial discrimination. Robinson’s prior incidents were a concern, but Rickey backed Robinson. The young player would be paid what is now equal to almost $8,000 weekly.
On March 17, 1946, Robinson played his first game with the Montreal Royals. His move soured other Negro League players who were considered better. According to fellow pioneer Larry Doby “There were many others better than Jackie—Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Willard Brown, Biz Mackey, Willie Wells, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Mule Suttles, Dick Seay, Ed Stone, Piper Davis, and Monte.”
Synonymous With Breaking the Color Line
By the time of his retirement in the late 1950s he was a six-time All-Star and a World Series champion. His name would become the standard of excelling in athletics where prejudice would stifle success.
One example is the former baseball player and wrestling legend Houston Harris—better known as Bobo Brazil. “The Jackie Robinson of Professional Wrestling.” Debuting in the 1950s and 1960s, Brazil was often booked against Black heels such as WWE Hall of Famer Abdullah the Butcher.
Brazil was one of the box office draws in the territory era. In his home territory of Detroit, Brazil had long feuds with The Sheik and Dick the Bruiser. His main event bouts would sell out Cobo Hall several times against The Sheik.
M. Swift primarily writes on moments and important figures in Black history for Your Black World. He also writes heavily on wrestling, comics, gaming, and Black sci-fi and fantasy.