Although we don’t have any live baseball right now, today (April 15) is still an important day for Major League Baseball. It was on this date in 1947 that Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball’s color barrier.
This was a significant event in American history, as baseball has always been one of our nation’s most popular sports – and at the time it was unquestionably the most popular. Robinson broke through at a time when there was still a lot of segregation in our society; for example, it would be another seven years before the Supreme Court would rule that schools should not be segregated in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Robinson went on to have a successful ten-year major league career and would eventually gain induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is a tremendous accomplishment when we consider how much pressure was on Robinson; had he not done well, or had he buckled under all the racism he endured from fellow players, managers, and fans, it could have set back progress in desegregating the game. Instead, Robinson paved the way for many other successful African American players who came immediately after and who continue to have success to this day.
In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s #42 jersey, ensuring that no player would ever wear that number again. Every year since, the league has had all players wear #42 for one day, on April 15, to honor Robinson’s achievements. Though that won’t happen this year, we can still remember Robinson and be grateful for all he did.
For those who want to learn more about Jackie Robinson, starting today, PBS is offering their Ken Burns special about him for free on their website. Click here to view it!