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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jackie Robinson

January 29, 2020

Heroes and role models can come from all over. Kids may look up to elite athletes, historical icons, or social champions. Jackie Robinson is a fascinating figure…because as the man who integrated professional baseball in 1947, he’s all three of those things. He’s also the subject of the latest entry in Silver Dolphin’s Wild Bios, board books for pre-readers that re-imagine important people as cute and cuddly creatures. Here are some little known facts about the inspiration for Wild Bios: Yakkie Robinson.

The name game

The full name of the influential American athlete and activist: Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Jackie is a nickname for Jack, while his middle name comes from Theodore Roosevelt. His parents named him after the late president, who died less than a month before Robinson’s birth in 1919.

Stats for the ages

Robinson becoming the first African-American in the big leagues is such an outstanding milestone that many don’t remember that he was also an absolutely terrific ballplayer. In 1947, his first season, he led the National League in stolen bases, hit .297, and was named the NL Rookie of the Year. Two years later, he hit .342, stole 37 bases (both the best in the NL) and earned the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Robinson was named to six All-Star teams in his 10-year MLB career and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame upon his first year of eligibility.

A team of future legends

As a teenager, Robinson attended John Muir High School, near Los Angeles, California. While the big leagues were segregated, Robinson’s high school team was not, and African-American and white players played side-by-side. At the same time, the school’s team included future Hall of Famers Bob Lemon, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson.

The sporting life

Not only was Robinson obviously an excellent baseball player, but he succeeded at every sport he attempted. He attended college at UCLA, where he became the school’s first student to ever earn a varsity letter in four different sports in one year. Robinson played basketball, football, baseball, and track and field. Outside of school, he won a few amateur tennis championships and played minor-league football.

On the road again

Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers for his entire MLB career, 1947 to 1957. This was decades before players commanded multi-million-dollar salaries, and even though he was a star, Robinson earned more money on his off-season job. During the fall and winter, Robinson went on speaking tours discussion civil rights issues and his life.

After the game

After making major strides for African-Americans in sports, Robinson continued to break down racial barriers in other sectors of American life. Shortly after he retired from baseball in 1957, he took a position as the Vice President for personnel at the then-major coffee company Chock full o’Nuts, the first African-American to serve as a VP at a large corporation in the U.S. He served on the NAACP’s board of directors for a decade and also helped found Freedom National Bank, a Harlem, New York-based bank owned by and serving African-Americans.

He played second-base…and himself

The story of Robinson’s ascent to the top level of Major League Baseball, and how the Brooklyn Dodgers selected him to be the first African-American to suit up for a big league team, is a fascinating one — a story of turmoil and triumph plays like a movie. In 1950, Jewel Pictures produced The Jackie Robinson Story. Starring as the adult Jackie Robinson in the biographical film: Jackie Robinson. 

An incident in the army

While serving in the U.S. Army in 1944, Robinson was courtmartialed. The alleged offense: The driver ordered Robinson to move to the back of a military bus, as it was customary at the time to segregate buses. Robinson refused to do so and called military police. He was ultimately acquitted of charges of insubordination. 

Numbers game

It’s customary for sports teams to retire the jersey number prominently worn by the biggest all-time stars. In 1972, the Dodgers retired Robinson’s no. 42. Twenty-five years later, and in recognition of Robinson’s tremendous impact on the game (and the fight for equality), Major League Baseball retired “42” across the entire organization. No player can wear the no. 42…except on each season’s “Jackie Robinson Day,” in which every player on every team puts on a no. 42 jersey to pay homage.

Golden guy

Jackie Robinson is one of the few non-politicians to ever grace an American coin. In 1997, the U.S. Mint produced silver and gold one-dollar coins bearing the ballplayer’s image. Fifteen years earlier, Robinson appeared on a postage stamp, just before he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Want to learn more about our Wild Bios series?
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