White House Dream Team: Jackie Roosevelt Robinson

Drawing of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. White House Drawing by Rania Hassan. *Click to make your own baseball cards* Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was a pioneer in desegregating baseball. He broke through racial barriers to become one of the most historically-significant baseball players ever when he became the first African American to play baseball in the major leagues in the 20th Century.

Jackie, whose full name was Jack Roosevelt Robinson, was born in Grady County, Georgia to Mallie and Jerry Robinson on January 31, 1919. His middle name was chosen to honor former President Theodore Roosevelt. When Jackie was a year old, his mother moved her five children to Pasadena, California to start a new life.

From a young age, Jackie loved to read and play sports. He was a regular visitor to the La Pintoresca branch of the Pasadena Public library. Jackie was good at sports, and he was very competitive while playing children's games such as dodge ball. Jackie's role model was his brother Mack, who placed second to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. He followed in his brother's footsteps by excelling in track as well as basketball, football and tennis in high school and college.

Jackie's reading ability allowed him to finish high school and attend Pasadena Junior College, where he became the leadoff batter and star athlete for the school's baseball team. His talent led him to UCLA, where he earned letters in four sports. He excelled in football, track, basketball, swimming and tennis. He won the 1940 NCAA long-jump title.

After college and military service, Jackie joined the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs in 1944. A year later Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, sent scouts to see Jackie play. He offered Jackie a spot to play for the Montreal Royals, a Dodgers farm team in Canada. If Jackie could break through the color barrier in Canada, then he would have the chance to move up to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie led the Royals to a pennant and a victory in the Little World Series. His success and appeal to the fans opened the door for him to join the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played first base for the Dodgers on opening day on April 15, 1947.

Jackie faced several obstacles as the first African-American player in the major leagues in the 20th Century. Managers and players of other teams did not accept Jackie at first. Some threatened to go on strike or sign petitions against Jackie playing. Many African Americans, however, became Dodger fans and Jackie soon became very popular throughout the United States.

During his professional career, Jackie broke many records. He led the majors with 37 steals in 1949. Jackie stole home base 19 times during his career. Jackie became one of 12 to steal home during the World Series in 1955. He also was among the first group of African-American players to participate in the All-Star Game in 1949.

Following his baseball career, which ended in 1956, Jackie went home to Stamford, Connecticut with his wife and children. This star athlete worked in the restaurant business, wrote a column for the New York Post and became active in Republican politics. Jackie's jersey number, 42, was retired at Dodger Stadium in 1972.

The man who broke the color barrier in baseball died on October 24, 1972. Not only was he the first African American to enter the major leagues in the 20th Century, but he also was the first to win the Most Valuable Player award and enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition, he earned the distinction of becoming the first baseball player of any race to appear on an American postage stamp.

Brain Challenge:

  1. Besides playing sports, what did Jackie enjoy doing at a young age?
  2. Who was Jackie's role model?
  3. In what year did Jackie begin playing in the major leagues?
  4. Name an honor Jackie received.
  5. What was Jackie's legacy?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

January 31, 1919

October 24, 1972

To play sports

University of California in Los Angeles

He was the first African-American to play on a Professional Baseball Team in the 20th Century

Character trait

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