Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers. His mother, Mallie Robinson, single-handedly raised Jackie and her four other children. They were the only black family on their block, and the prejudice they encountered only strengthened their bond. From this humble beginning would grow the first baseball player to break Major League Baseball's color barrier that segregated the sport for more than 50 years.
In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Jackie about joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Major Leagues had not had an African-American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated. When Jackie first donned a Brooklyn Dodger uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in America. By breaking the color barrier in baseball, the nation's preeminent sport, he courageously challenged the deeply rooted custom of racial segregation in both the North and the South.
At the end of Robinson's rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he had become National League Rookie of the Year with 12 homers, a league-leading 29 steals, and a .297 average. In 1949, he was selected as the NL's Most Valuable player of the Year and also won the batting title with a .342 average that same year. As a result of his great success, Jackie was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Jackie married Rachel Isum, a nursing student he met at UCLA, in 1946. As an African-American baseball player, Jackie was on display for the whole country to judge. Rachel and their three children, Jackie Jr., Sharon and David, provided Jackie with the emotional support and sense of purpose essential for bearing the pressure during the early years of baseball.
Jackie Robinson's life and legacy will be remembered as one of the most important in American history. In 1997, the world celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Jackie's breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier. In doing so, we honored the man who stood defiantly against those who would work against racial equality and acknowledged the profound influence of one man's life on the American culture. On the date of Robinson's historic debut, all Major League teams across the nation celebrated this milestone. Also that year, on United States Post Office honored Robinson by making him the subject of a commemorative postage stamp. On Tuesday, April 15 President Bill Clinton paid tribute to Jackie at Shea Stadium in New York in a special ceremony.
So imagine the pride in which we were able to take our new students to the Jackie Robinson Stadium. They experienced their first American Baseball game here in Daytona and watched the minor league team the Daytona Cubs. They had been learning the game by watching the Little League World Series. Ironically, in a town in which I worked across the street from this ball park and worked at the McDonalds down the street as my second job to pay off debts after graduating from college. I was proud to show Malte and Gabriele the American game. It ended with an international show of fireworks. A perfect ending to the night and it all was captured because of our previous student Felipe, because he taught ME how to use my camera with a special setting to take photos of fireworks!
|Malte, Cub Mascot and Gabriele|
|Gabriele with Malte's Finger|
|Gabriele and BJ|
There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free. ~ Jackie Robinson